As winter slowly eases its way out, we can look out our windows and savor the sights and sounds of spring emerging. In the kitchen, we can also “Save the Flavor of Eating Right,” as we are encouraged to do in honor of this year’s National Nutrition Month in March.
According to the NNM website, this year’s theme “encourages everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives.” Sounds like a great excuse for a party – and a healthy one at that!
The Spice is Right
Why not spice up a dinner party with friends by playing a game that puts people’s sense of smell to the test? Before your friends come over, select eight to ten spices from your cabinet to use for the game. When you’re shopping for your party, buy 3-4 brand new spices to give out as a prize to the dinner guest who guesses the most spices correctly.
When you’re ready to play, pour some of each spice into its own individual bowl. As you do this step, be sure to number the bowls and write down the order of spices on your own answer sheet. Place the bowls where party-goers can easily walk over and play as they mingle. Next to the bowls, leave a small stack of index cards and a few pens. Players can write down their answers and hold on to their cards. (Another option is to have attendees’ names pre-written on the cards and use them as place cards at your dinner table.)
At some point during the party, share the answers – and the spices – with everyone. The guest with the most answers correct wins some new spices!
Food is such an integral part of the human experience that it transcends mere survival. Many of us know traditional recipes that have been handed down through generations, and we all have stories of cooking with family or friends. Often, we stumble into telling these stories, but why not make them the central theme of a special meal?
Invite family and friends to a pot-luck style dinner party and ask them to specifically bring a dish that holds special meaning. As an option, you can ask guests to send you the name of their dish ahead of time, so you can prepare special place cards to put out at the party. You can also ask people to email you the recipe ahead of time (if they’ll share!) so you can create a special booklet for all of the guests.
While gathered around the table, each person can tell the story of their dish so everyone can savor the good memories and good food.
13 Ways of Looking at…
There’s a beautiful poem called “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens. The poem considers a familiar object, the blackbird, from a variety of perspectives, all of which are nuanced and thought-provoking. You can use this poem to inspire your own “13 Ways of Looking” dinner party for a special evening that will be savored by all of your guests.
First, consider what flavor you would like to make the central focus of your party. Perhaps you’ll decide to choose a spice or an herb. Or perhaps you’ll choose an ingredient, like eggplant or lemon. You may choose to prepare all of the dishes, or your guests may want to participate in a potluck style event. Whatever you choose, create dishes that really play up the flavor of your featured item.
When you send out invitations, be sure to include the poem (or a link to it), along with announcing the flavorful feature of your party. For an extra twist of literary fun, ask your guests to write a parody stanza or two of the poem with the flavor in mind. While everyone savors the featured flavor of the meal in all its forms, you can also enjoy the layers of language.
Bare It All
Simply prepared foods, if done correctly, are often healthy, easy, and delectable. While this year’s theme of National Nutrition Month deals with flavor, it’s important not to forget the “eating right” part of the message as well.
As you plan your meals, make a special effort this month to create meals with just a few healthy ingredients that carry a big punch of flavor. Caprese salad is one example, or try baked salmon flavored with just olive oil, salt, and pepper. Rustic cheese paired with fresh bread goes well with sweet berries and a glass of wine. When dealing with just a few ingredients, it’s important to use ones that are fresh and high quality because then the flavors will truly shine through. Creating uncomplicated dishes means you’re saving time to savor.