Great Cookbooks for Families: Dinner Co-ops

[ 9 ] March 17, 2009 |

By Katy Killilea

katy-dinner-at-your-doorI’ve been in dinner co-ops, and they’ve always been inspired by an incapacitated friend. Incapacitated by childbirth, by tragedy, or, in one case, by an injury acquired during acrobatic sex. But what about a dinner co-op that forms for fun and convenience instead of aid foisted upon a disabled household? And how lovely it would be if this dinner co-op could consist of friends who: a) share your food beliefs; b) cook really well; and c) are conveniently located. Just like Camp Cricket, we can make this happen.

A smart new guide to starting a co-op, Dinner at Your Door, comes with recipes, planning worksheets, and advice regarding how/when/if ever you should offer criticism of a friend’s cooking. A hunk of the book is dedicated to recipes that yield quantities to serve three or four families and travel well. These are not gargantuan batches of tuna noodle casserole. Instead, there are creative, flexible, salads, sides, and fresh spins on casseroles (like Shrimp and Rice Bake with Gruyere and Thyme) and kid favorites (like build-your-own-tacos).

As tantalizing as the recipes are, the planning tools are what make this book so useful. With advice on what to do if you forget it’s your turn to deliver (rush out to buy prepared foods vs. just skip town and hope for mercy), accommodating picky eaters (should one family’s hatred of cilantro be handled as if it’s an allergy?), and avoiding the loss of beloved platters as they shuffle among homes, this book will prepare you for life in a dinner co-op.simply_in_season

If you’re interested in cooking co-ops, in addition to Dinner at Your Door, it’s worth looking into the refreshingly straightforward Mennonite cookbook Simply in Season. It has succinct info on dinner co-ops and pages upon pages of recipes for simple and fresh-yet-sturdy foods that can successfully be prepared in large amounts, made ahead of time, and delivered. But if you are interested in cooking as part of a co-op, you’ve probably already got some great deliverable meals in mind. The hard part is getting the ball rolling, and there’s nothing like an experienced guide to show you the way.

Do you have experience with a dinner co-op? Please share your tips and ideas by posting comments.

The details:
Dinner at Your Door: Tips and Recipes for Starting a Neighborhood Cooking Co-op
By Alex Davis, Diana Ellis, and Andy Remeis
$19.99 Gibbs Smith

Simply in Season
By Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert
$16.99 Herald Press

Category: food + recipes


Katy Killilea

about the author ()

Katy Killilea lives in Barrington with her husband, their sons (2001 + 2003), and a dog named Grover. Katy loves reading, cooking, loud pants, the Beehive in Bristol, and learning everything she can about Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. She says more about that at Bigfoot Child Have Diabetes.

Comments (9)

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  1. Maria says:

    Katy, how often do the meal contributions generally circulate? Once a week someone takes a turn? or more/less…
    Great idea….great review…

  2. Jaci Arnone Jaci says:

    Funny, in the weeks following the birth of my last babies I remember telling my husband that in terms of the whole childbirth experience, I would MOST miss the nice dinners delivered by friends & family (well, that and hospital jello).

    Great idea!

  3. pip says:

    Sounds good, but I’m not sure I could stick to a plan…has anyone actually tested this method?

  4. Katy Killilea Katy says:

    In the book, the general plan is to join with 2-3 other families, and each takes on one meal/week. So, for example, Jaci would bring us all food on Mondays, then Maria would bring us all food on Tuesdays, then Pip would bring us all food on Wednesdays, and I’d bring everyone food on Thursdays. Obviously this would be flexible, depending on people’s preferred delivery days and how many people were in the co-op–I think even trying it out with just one other family–(i.e. one day off, with a meal delivered by a friend who’s cooking I love)–would be a huge relief…and making one double dinner a week would be hardly any extra effort at all (I guess the delivery would be the hardest part…unless the spouse were home in time…and in my dream my entire house would be cleaned while i was out making the delivery…)

  5. Katy Killilea Katy says:

    I can see it is National Awkward Moments tomorrow, so maybe tomorrow will be the day I strike and ask people to form a dinner co-op with me. Watch out!

  6. Hannah Marcotti Hannah says:

    I have lost and gained a food storage containers this way! A friend of mine and I did a summer dinner that was a lot of fun. You feel pressure to make a really good meal that night!

  7. Anisa Raoof Anisa says:

    From years of potluck dinners, I have learned to put a piece of masking tape on the bottom of any dish or container with my name on it – at least on the ones I want returned!

  8. Diana says:

    In Dinner at Your Door we suggest each family purchases a set of pyrex containers with plastic lids that circulate between the families. These dishes work well from oven to table to dishwasher and you don’t have to worry about who they belong to. If someone drops out of the group, they just take back their set of dishes.

  9. Katy Killilea Katy says:

    Pyrex should always flow freely among friends–or at least I hope no one has been wanting theirs back–I have quite a stockpile of it in my pantry.

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