A few years back, when a big anniversary faced us, my mojo and I knew a fancy pants party in a sleek and shiny commercial venue was not for us. Instead, we rented a villa (fancy word for a house with more than one bathroom!) on a beautiful hilltop in Umbria, Italy and invited the gang to come along, including our entire immediate family, our children, teen-aged grandchildren and a few of their significant others.
We couldn’t afford to take all fifteen of us to supper every night, though, and we sure weren’t prepared to cook for the gang like we sometimes did on Sundays back home. How would we handle the food angle? Well, those Sunday dinners gave us the clue: here at home our son and his wife, our daughter and her husband, and we ourselves take turns each Sunday to open up the tables and let the plain and fancy food rip. Why not do the same thing overseas, giving every generation a chance to get in on the challenge by providing one nightly meal?
Each couple picked a day and planned their menus, and every young person cooked, too, sometimes joining up with a cousin or a significant other on their chosen day. The menus came together beautifully: one couple made a rich, fragrant minestrone soup with the trimmings, including wine, another made lasagna, another a roast, potatoes and salad, and another, perhaps feeling a little homesick, hotdogs and hamburgers on the outdoor grill around the swimming pool.
On and on went the variety, and the excellent local meats, produce and pastas that went into it, and we were well-fed for weeks. Only once or twice did we pool our money and hire a local catering Grandma to come in and cook us a typically Umbrian meal that couldn’t be beat. Once we all dined out in a restaurant together. Overall, we couldn’t have asked for better or more delicious or more varied food.
And oh, yes, there was always dessert—homemade, bought, prepared by others—whatever, including tiramisu, Italian cookies, and gelato by the ton. Not to mention the infamously scrumptious bread, eg., asiago stuffed loaves I can still taste, from a nearby little known bakery we discovered by luck. And wine pumped into our own gallons at the local wineries. Bravissimo!
Planning a trip with a group, or an extended family? Try our take-a-turn-cooking method to relieve stress, share the wealth, and have memories to talk about from here to home again. Everything tastes better when someone else cooks. And handles the clean-up. And no one ever gets chopped.
Try it; you’ll like it.
Next Friday: Editing, Writing's Super-Duper Polish