I love cooking for my family and friends.
No, really. It's not a "hobby". It's what I do. It's part of who I am. I seriously love it.
I love being in the kitchen and thinking about each one of the people coming over for the evening and the joy they have brought into my life.
I love to imagine their reaction to sitting down and sharing a meal together. I sometimes make adjustments to the recipe accordingly.
I call up the person who gave me the recipe - most often, my grandmother - and offer thanks and praise for the gift of her life and the gifts she has given me.
I pour the love I have for each of my dinner guests into the food, laughing at some memories, weeping at others, talking with them - the unfinished conversations, the ones I know we still need to have - receiving the blessing of gratitude for all the memories we share and pouring that blessing back into the food.
In my mind, the food is an adjunct to - a way to support and build up - the relationships. It's the relationships that are primary. The food is a reflection of the quality of the relationships, a way to sustain the relationship, a vehicle to promote the relationship.
If, after the meal and dessert, people are sitting about, sipping coffee and sharing stories with each other on an even deeper level, well, I know that the meal has been successful.
I think I love that moment in the evening best. There's a stillness in the air. A sense of contentment. A deeper level to the questions and responses. I can hear it all the way from the kitchen as I'm getting the dishes ready to go into the dishwasher.
Which is why I love recipes that can be mostly done before hand and allow me to be present to my family an friends, with the exception of a dash into the kitchen now and again to check on things.
In that way, for me, cooking and meal planning are ritual and the meal is liturgy.
With a large dinner gathering (for me, anything over 6), the slow cooker or crock pot is a blessing. I can sometimes even get things started the night before, put the "crock" in the refrigerator over night and then start everything up on low first thing in the morning.
Here's one of my favorites for a gathering of family and friends. The seasonings blend nicely giving a slightly exotic flavor to a standard "chicken" dish.
Here's what you'll need: