The simple act of eating outside is nourishing connections with my cohousing neighbours. With the warmer weather, I’m coming out of my cave – my place is dark – to eat meals at my patio bistro set. That’s right next to the post box and at a crossroads where people come in and out of the front gate. So, it’s easy to strike up conversations.
Sometimes friends will join me at the little table. Recently I made lunch for Vesanto and Cam – who often invite me to eat outside their courtyard-level place – and my next-door neighbour Marijean, who moved her table next to mine.
In my wok, I stir-fried vegetables with shiitake mushrooms, Chinese stewed tofu and green bean noodles, plus a salad with my red miso dressing. We lingered with Japanese tea and oranges. When Marijean had to leave, Anna – my neighbour across the courtyard – brought her zucchini noodle salad over and sat next to me (pictured).
Cooking for others brings me joy. I first really learned to cook when I was 21 and Betsy and I were living in Vancouver. We met up with Fernando Lee, whose family had a Chinese restaurant in Lima, Peru, and a chicken farm outside the city. He took us to Chinatown where we bought a wok, cleaver and lots of ingredients. Back at our tiny house at 5th and Nootka, Fernando taught us how to chop, stir-fry and steam.
Basically, that’s how I’ve cooked ever since. More recently I’ve experimented more with recipes from “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi. And now that I’m cooking for 4o people when I’m on a common-meal cooking team, I’m trying new recipes.
The common theme in what I’ve made for the three meals I’ve been involved in has been eggplant – eggplant bharta, lentils with broiled eggplant and baba ganoush. So far, they’ve been hits and that makes me feel great.