By Katy Killilea
I’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.
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.
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