Thursday, February 06, 2014

Family Dinners at The Station: Striking Up Conversations Offline and Creating Lasting Memories

I've always been a fan of healthy discourse, especially over a shared meal with some great wine. And maybe it's because I've loved cooking since I was eight, but I just crave the energy found in a kitchen filled with people. So one of my side projects that I'm extremely excited about is Family Dinners at The Station.
Family Dinners: Passed Caprese Salad
Because of my upbringing, conversation and food go together. My mom gathered all of us nightly around the dining room table for dinner where we'd share our adventures and discuss current events. Both sets of grandparents brought family from near and far into their homes for the holidays, birthdays, and major sporting events. When I think of when and where I've been happiest it's been around one of their tables. And, I've spent a good part of my life creating the opportunity for more of these happy memories to happen.
Gates' First Birthday: The Spread

Why Family Dinners?

The years spent living outside of California were ones in which I wanted to recreate a sense of home. For me, home meant people gathered around a table eating, talking, and laughing. Shortly after arriving in Texas I began bringing Texas vintners, restauranteurs, and techies together monthly in my formal dining room. Sometimes we'd have up to 20 people blind tasting varietals paired with plated courses featuring regional cuisine. The dinners were stressful to arrange but so worth it for the conversations and lasting relationships that were created. The dinner that was the most fun was one in which everything went wrong and guests joined me in the kitchen, donning aprons and chef's knives. Why was it the best? For the sense of camaraderie we all shared, some of us only meeting that night for the first time.
After working with a Thai chef, all my friends and family wanted homestyle Thai meals. My dinners evolved to where guests ate family style and passed dishes back and forth. The kitchen became the hub for the evening, with groups of people joining me to make or to prep a dish and then all of us coming back together to enjoy the next bite. I hosted the first dinner in San Diego using a stove that had a faulty pilot light. We spent most of the evening relighting the stove and laughing while we enjoyed wine. Once the curries and soup were ready, half of us sat cross legged around a coffee table and the others shoulder-to-shoulder around a small breakfast table, conversations being shouted back and forth across the tiny space.
Then in Michigan during my graduate studies, at least once a month, I'd either open the doors of a friend's apartment or our shared apartment wide and invite fellow students and friends over for a Thai feast. (My first year in the dorm, at least once a week, I'd invite a classmate over for studying and share a soup or a curry that I'd had simmering in a slow cooker.) What I love most about my time in Michigan were those family dinners.
Our Sneaky's BBQ

What Can You Expect?

I hate the routine. So not every Family Dinner will be Thai cuisine.
Leading up to each Family Dinner, I'll be sharing possible themes and getting reader feedback. Once we have a theme, you'll see the menu come together. The final menu as well as allergen information will be shared and then people can sign up to attend. Due to the family style nature of most meals we won't be able to make the entire meal accessible to everyone.
Some Family Dinners will be super participatory; others not so much. How involved you'll need to be as a guest will be shared up front so you'll know what you're getting into. To cover expenses, I'll be asking for a small fee. How much a dinner will cost will depend on the menu and the ingredients. I prefer local, in season, sustainably grown and raised ingredients and will be doing my sourcing primarily through Good Eggs.
In the Bay Area?
Join us for an upcoming Family Dinner.

Subscribe to be Part of the Fun

Sign up to be included in the fun of choosing a theme for a Family Dinner, planning the menu, and getting a chance to hang out in my kitchen. Note that this mailing list is different from the Weekly Digests newsletter.
After subscribing and opting in (you'll get an email that you'll need to click through to verify that you truly want to be on this list), you'll receive no more than three to four emails each quarter leading up to and following a Family Dinner. You can opt out at any time; I promise my feelings won't be hurt.
Bon Appetit!
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Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.