A recipe for camaraderie
Near a fruit stand where farmers hawk jewel-like Rainier cherries, not far from some fresh-baked cupcakes, six friends laden with shopping...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Near a fruit stand where farmers hawk jewel-like Rainier cherries, not far from some fresh-baked cupcakes, six friends laden with shopping bags huddle to solve a pressing dilemma.
What's for dinner tonight? And who's going to cook it?
Orzo is out, they decide. So are all recipes that involve local corn and peppers, which aren't yet in season around these parts.
They swivel heads to reassess all they've bought — asparagus, eggs, flatbread, onions, basil. Salad greens, English peas, baby beets and carrots. And that's just what's peeking out from the tops of the sacks.
It's 11:30 a.m. and these Capitol Hill neighbors are embarking on a weekly ritual that has sustained relationships for generations: Sunday dinner.
"Sunday is my favorite day. I absolutely adore Sunday," says Andrew Whitver, a 43-year-old cook and the group's universal friend.
"It's something I look forward to all week long, knowing I'm going to see my friends and neighbors and connect," says Lori Salzarulo, a 44-year-old attorney and Whitver's neighbor across the street.
Each Sunday they meet, walk the few blocks from their homes to the Broadway Farmers Market, fill their bags with whatever looks good that's organic and grown locally, plot a meal that makes the most of their finds then regroup later that day to prep, cook, eat, laugh.
That settles it, Whitver declares at the market this day. John will cook up sausage and onions. Lori will parboil carrots and beets, then sauté them. Andrew and Marcey will top grilled asparagus with eggs and cheese, then bake the trio in his oven. Ashley will handle dessert, a concoction Andrew still is crafting in his head.
Whitver's neighborhood near Cal Anderson Park has held weekly dinners for years. Last year, he kept running into everyone at the market and wondered: Why not combine the two?
As one of those people crafty enough at cooking to excel at "Iron Chef," he knew they'd be able to pull it off with their collective culinary skills. And, it was a chance to support local farmers and forms of agriculture that are easier on Earth, two of his passions.
To those ends, the group eats what's in season. When this year's dinners began in early May, that meant a lot of salad, asparagus and potatoes. Then came a beet risotto and marvelous cheese, and more options with each passing week.
"I know our friends go to the market and see nothing: 'Well, there's just a bunch of lettuce and some vegetables.' When I go there I'm just thinking 'Oh my god, look at this food!' " Whitver says.
Whitver has known most of the 11 friends who will gather around his table this night for a decade or longer. He met Marcey McCabe, a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom, 18 years ago, when the pair taught cooking at a group home (tonight, she stirs a simmering rhubarb compote). Ashley Clark, 39, met Whitver when they both worked at Benaroya Hall (she brought honey from the bees at the Washington Park Arboretum). Tricia Iacovangelo, a 38-year-old chemistry and anatomy teacher, lives down the hall (she makes sure everyone has their fill of flatbread).
John Jamnback, who lives across the street, gets grill duty this night. The taste of the eggs and produce reminds him of his childhood on a farm in upstate New York, he says, herding onions and sausages away from the flames with tongs. And, he likes the camaraderie.
"I didn't think people would commit to doing this every week. But they did," he said, swigging his beer as friends bustle by with plates and trays. "It's much more fun than I thought it would be. It's kind of like that family-dinner type of thing."
The dinner table this night calls to mind that scene from "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," where the friends combine random tables and chairs to create an impromptu dining space. Bud vases of sweet peas pull together the setting, where heirloom silver mingles with pretty plastic tumblers and Fiesta ware. Space is cleared for a platter of sausages ringed by grilled onions and sautéed beets and carrots. Grilled asparagus topped with baked egg and melted Parmesan comes out next.
"Good lord, look at all this," Clark says, eyeing the spread.
There is an ease that comes from knowing one another for years. The future of honeybees, Anna Nicole Smith, Washington coastal towns with crazy names, the death penalty and the size of each other's carbon footprints all come up over dinner.
Whitver proclaims the intense cheese they're enjoying was aged 4 ½ years. The cheese is good, agrees Chris Manojlovic, 55, an exhibition designer at Seattle Art Museum.
"Like Marcey said, it's older than her son," Whitver proclaims to raucous laughter.
They marvel over dessert, a heavenly medley of local cherries, apriums and strawberries, topped with tart rhubarb compote, honey and a dollop (or five) of organic whipped cream.
Next Sunday puts them even closer to ripe local tomatoes, apricots, peppers and corn.
Next Sunday can't come soon enough.
Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618
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