Friday, September 17, 2010


Let me write that out: Five Thousand One Hundred Thirty-Six. That's how many meals I served in three weeks of building a Temple in the desert. We had a crew of 200. We built a Temple that was 21,000 square feet. And then we burned it, in what was one of the most spectacular Fires I have ever seen.

So yes, back from the desert. I say this often, but The Desert, She is a harsh and cruel Mistress. I don't think I would have agreed to do what I did had I stopped to think about it along the way. Instead I went headlong (as is my oeuvre, it seems) into the unknown, "blissfully unaware of my own peril" as Carlos Amigos would say. I still haven't calculated how much actual food I purchased, cooked and served. But here is what I do know:

1. I have an awesome culinary partner named Taz. Who saved the day more than once. Who battled the Eggtastrophy on the playa, and WON! (We lost 1500+ eggs to bad planning, broken refrigerators, and 110 degree heat in the worst culinary disaster I've ever witness on the playa) Who served with a smile when I couldn't, and who kept me sane when things fell apart.

2. I had the best kitchen team! There were lots of people who came into the kitchen to help. But there were some who stuck around most of the time, and they rocked it! Its so amazing to have people who can all work together like a machine, especially since we hadn't ever worked together before. People asked how long we had all been together, and when we said this was the first time, their jaws dropped. Part of me felt like Tom Sawyer a bit when I was asking volunteers to do things like roll 400 plus matzoh balls, or massage two cases of kale, or make 600 tortillas individually, by hand, in a 30+MPH duststorm. "C'mon, its fun! Don't you want to try"? And people DID! There were usually more volunteers than jobs to do, and I think it was fun for people to come out of the sun and off the project for a while, and do something different. A lot of people said that cooking in the heat and dust and wind made them feel better about what they could accomplish. I think that's what I like most about pre-event: that you are out there to do something, whatever it is, and that it's gonna stretch your limits and push your capacity, but it's also gonna make you a stronger person. You get to prove to yourself just what you are capable of doing.

3. I had the best kitchen out there! Not only did I have a fabulous work space that many hands help create, but we produced the best tasting, healthiest food on the playa. We served meals for vegan, gluten-free, AND nightshade sensitive people! We served raw kale salad with house made dressings. We served quinoa pasta with fresh swiss chard. I made chicken matzoh ball soup for 200 people. We made corn tortillas from scratch, and pressed them in a wooden tortilla press with our Temple's logo impressed into them. We did this in a duststorm of epic proportions. And still dinner was on time (playa time!). I has chefs from other camps coming to my kitchen asking for leftovers. Yeah, you wanna see Top Chef? Come out to the desert, and produce food for 200 people three times a day in that litterbox and we'll see who comes out ahead. Not sayin', just sayin'......

It's been a long road back as well, and re-entry into this world has been jolting for the most part. But all the kitchen supplies, the pots, platters, appliances have all been washed and put away, ready for the next expedition (in a week, when I cater a wedding...camping). I am happy at home here with my dogs. Happy to be at All The Comforts of Home Camp here in my little niche in Oaktown. I am so happy to be back, in fact, that it inspired me to do a All The Comforts of Home Secret Kitchen. So I am gonna do just that, on Sept. 30th, somewhere in the Bay Area. Check out "This Month's Menu" for details........

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