I called my best friend at 9pm Friday evening on my way home from the airport. I wish I could say I was coming home from vacation, but I was picking up 20lbs of wild Copper River salmon that was so generously donated for our fundraiser dinner last weekend. I had had a rough day with the kids, Cleo being clingy and dramatic, Curran having a collection of tantrums and time outs that weren't seeming to make any difference. And then there I was, hustling post bed time as you do, with a trunk packed with groceries, my box of salmon riding shotgun and hours worth of prep work for our fundraiser dinner ahead of me. I wanted to cry, but it was also sort of funny, so I called Shannon, because I knew she'd get it. We had three simultaneous house projects going on too and there is just stuff everywhere so I reached that sort of crazy "laugh-cry" state. "The entire contents of our garage are in my backyard, our grass is dead, we have our house half stucco'd, my kids are wearing me down, and I have 20 lbs. of salmon in my front seat. WHAT AM I DOING?" You need people who can see the laugh-cry and pull you towards the laugh, agree that yes, maybe you did bite off more than you can chew in one week but affirm that you're capable. So I carried on. My salmon and I persisted.
By Sunday morning I was pretty organized. Each course had it's own section in the kitchen so all the ingredients I would need to prep for that specific dish were in one place. I'd made my dressings and sauces because they could sit and then I started with the desserts because they are least compromised by being made in advance, at least the ones I chose. I made these Brown Butter Brownie Cakes which were a hit and a strawberry rhubarb crumble that I based off a crumble recipe in Tara O'Brady's cookbook, also a success. There is a photo on my instagram of the whole menu if you care to see. I don't have a recipe to post here today, but I made this avocado chimichurri to go along with the salmon that was simply rubbed with some taco seasoning and a little brown sugar and roasted on a low heat. A pretty good dinner idea if you are looking to refresh your salmon preparation.
Today I'm coming down from some adrenaline in my system (the only way I can manage cooking dinner for 20 people by myself) and catching my breath. At a point in the last few days, I regretted this commitment. Only due to my own selfishness of course . I'm tired, this is too much, bad timing, I thought. We instigated these dinners as a way to multiply a donation to a charity we were already planning on donating to, and in that we were successful. How lucky to have people who also see value in this. Between this local dinner and the one in Seattle last month, I have met dozens of new friends that are somehow connected to me through this space and with their generous donations, I gave them a reason to gather around a table with other people for conversation and a meal they didn't have to cook. There is the giving of time and money and resources and energy and hospitality that you can't always measure the worth of. Will the money we donate help someone? Was this even a good way to do something? Did people have a good time? Was the food decent? I think those immeasurable variables can be paralyzing (we need to talk about the enneagram personality test in another post, my chatter may make more sense if you're also a 2). Anyway, we live in a climate where there are so many people hurting and helpless, as there have always been, but social media and the internet just get that information and imagery to us quicker, and I don't want to be a passive bystander. So perhaps I won't know where that money is spent or if it was "enough" to make a difference or if the girls from Pennsylvania thought their trip out here for the dinner was worth it or if the cauliflower salad would have been better warm. But I did something that pushed me out of my comfort zone and I'm pretty sure sometimes, not all the time, but for sure sometimes, that's the only way forward.
I am most grateful to my parents who worked their buns off to welcome everyone into their beautiful home. They have always been the best cheerleaders for their daughters' projects. I had two wonderful women volunteer to help me, Erika and Claudia, and obviously Hugh who knows what I need without having to say it and always lets me know when things need more salt. Does this sound like a grammy speech yet?
Thank you to these brands who made it possible for us to have a lovely event and raise money for the International Rescue Committee: Moe Paper Co., Drifter Fish, Whole Foods, Winc, California Olive Ranch.