So, we went around the calendar. We hosted our first Sharing the Table last March, and this past Saturday, our ninth. That’s twelve months, with no dinners over the typically busy summer.
What did we learn? People really like a dinner party! Guests enter awkwardly, and leave bestowing hugs and warm handshakes. People like supporting local charities. People are generous eaters, and curious about the provenance and preparation of food. People like a glass of wine! What else? A few hours before the evening, it seems like an insane enterprise, but once the conversation begins and the Prophet is flowing, it’s all good—better than good—and within a day or two we’re planning the next dinner.
This one taught us a few things about menu planning, too. The original impulse behind the food of Sharing the Table was to keep it simple, not only to make it tolerable for a single cook (that would be me), but also because it was meant to be about ingredients, and not about showy or fussy or trying-to-wow-the-guests cooking. Sharing the Table—it’s about sharing. Now the idea for this meal seemed to suit: it was to recreate an memorable lunch that some of us had a few years ago at Momofuku Ssam: the bo ssam, an informal, communal pork fest for eight consisting of a slow-roasted shoulder plunked down in the middle of the table that everyone goes at with tongs. Just recently Sam Sifton published recipes for it in The Times magazine, and it seemed perfect. But somewhere along the way our meal evolved and I think strayed…too many dishes, too many sauces, too many moving parts. Absolutely tasty, but, well, kind of elaborate. I knew I’d gone too far when I was deep-frying cilantro leaves for a garnish. Sometimes you need to follow your instincts, not the recipe.
Enough of the critical hindsight. During the evening itself, it was all pleasure and merriment and a wonderful way to raise money for Montclair’s Human Needs Food Pantry.
One nice last thought about sharing: guests are sharing with us. Last month it was a poster, now hanging in our kitchen. This month, a jar of homemade fig preserves, photo above. Thank you, Sabina.
And thank you to everyone else who’s joined us on this spirited venture.