Cooking and Community Building

Kinhaven Music School Staff Cooking Party!

As time goes on, I will be writing quite a few posts about the summer camp I run with my wife, and all of the incredible aspects of the institution that I try to bring back to “real life” during the year.  One of my favorite traditions at camp occur on Saturday.  After our faculty concert that we perform for the students, we all run over to the kitchen and start cooking in preparation for a huge feast that lasts through the night.  While we cook and eat together, we engage in memorable and often extremely important dialogue about music, business, and life.

Growing up, I always found myself at huge formal and informal gatherings where my father cooked for everyone and all corners of the room were rich with conversation about one thing or another.  Much like my dad, I love being around people, and it makes me very happy to see others relating and conversing with each other while having a great time.  It’s what life is all about as far as I am concerned.

Now I’ll put on my “boss hat”.  I am very lucky that everyone who works for me is an expert in their field and passionate about what they do.  In the public school system, teachers want to do a fantastic job and, for the most part, think about their crafts often with a strong desire to share.  My musician friends are some of the most incredibly accomplished artists in the world, and every conversation includes comparing notes on playing or teaching; always striving to be better.  Problem is, with the craziness that is life there is not always time.

Out of the 12 schools I supervise (in one of my many jobs), I decided to cook for the entire staff of one of the elementary schools yesterday.  There is a new Principal at the school and I thought that cooking would create a nice “community building” moment.  I told the Principal last week that if her PTA thought it was important and would spring for the food, I would cook italian for all 75 staff.  They agreed.

Sure enough, every staff member showed up to the meal!  I smiled while I sweated over the stove in the corner and listened to teachers and staff conversing, many for the first time.  While there were many discussions of family and such, I was extremely pleased (and not so surprised) to hear some really great discussions of pedagogy and best practices in the classroom.  It was very cool!

You can always count on a nice get-together around food to bring out the best in people.  There is always time for it.  I would argue that we are crazy to not do it more often.

As for cooking in your own home, let’s not forget that you will easily chop off $300-$600 off of your food budget if you cook at home and pack a lunch.  Eating out is, indeed, the number one “wealth-killer” out there!  What would you do with $3,000-$6,000 extra a year??  It’s never too late to learn how to cook.

If you like italian food and are new to the whole cooking thing, you have to immediately purchase Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” for starts.  The first recipe you can try has got to be the easiest, yet most delicious, recipe in the world.  To all my college students: you will save a ton of money making this!!

Marcella’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (serves 6)

  • 2 cups canned imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice (SAN MARZANO are the best!)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1medium onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt to taste
  1. Put the tomatoes in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato.
  2. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion before tossing with pasta. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table.
It does not get any easier than that!
As far as my menu for the teachers, I served:
Don’t forget to multiply the recipes several-fold if cooking for 75!  Happy cooking…


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