Think of the possibilities of having an international feast locally
The power of food - I know you have experienced it.
Not the distress of a waistband straining against a too-full tummy - I mean the healing, comforting, familial binding power of food.
Something special happens when people sit down to share a meal. The simple act of eating together binds them to each other in a way no other activity can.
Food has proven healing qualities. Your mother knew what she was doing feeding you a steaming mug of chicken noodle soup when you were under the weather. Inhaling the steam relieves pressure in your sinuses and soothes aching muscles throughout your whole body.
And there truly are comfort foods. For some, chocolate is a comfort food. For me, the prospect of Granny's Sunday Dinner - roast chicken with potatoes, carrots and onions - puts me in relaxation mode.
The community building value of a Spaghetti Feed is not lost on West Linn's Jeffery Lewis. Lewis, one of the organizers for the West Linn Chamber of Commerce's annual golf tournament this summer, decided to veer away from traditional banquet fare for the after-golf dinner. Instead golfers, their families and guests were treated to a good ol' fashioned Spaghetti and Meatballs Feed, made lovingly by Lewis and his son Matthew. Lewis used his father-in-law Angelo Semeraro's recipe, passed down by his mother in the Old Country.
The spaghetti feed was the highlight of the day and the talk of the town.
Community events take full advantage of the power of foods.
The 56th annual Portland Greek Festival will occur this weekend at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 3131 N.E. Glisan St., Portland. This event is near and dear to my heart. Each year, I experience what could be termed 'Greek culture envy' as I eat roasted lamb, traditional Greek baklava and tyropitas, listen to the music and watch the dancing and other pageantry.
Organizers expect more than 15,000 people to attend the festival this year. In preparation, members of the parish have made more than 15,000 pieces of baklava and countless other specialty foods - what a wonderful way to share their heritage with others.
Do you like sushi? Pho? Molé? Sauerbraten or soufflés? Do you feel a little more akin to the Japanese, Vietnamese, Hispanic, German and French people when you eat foods that are staples in their cuisine? Sampling foods from another country is a delightful way to learn about the culture. I believe we gain an insight and appreciation for others when we eat what they eat.
The Lake Oswego Reads program this winter will feature 'Three Cups of Tea, One Man's Mission to Promote Peace … One School At A Time,' by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The book tells of Mortenson's difficult and dangerous quest to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The book gave me firsthand clarity of Pakistani and Afghani cultures. It is a powerful book and I believe Mortenson is changing the world through his efforts.
In my small way to aid those efforts, I will teach Pakistani cooking classes as part of the Lake Oswego Reads program. Julia Bergman, chairman of the board of the Central Asia Institute (the organization Mortenson founded to build the schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan) sent me several typical Pakistani recipes to try. I'll be sampling samosas, a popular snack filled with potatoes, minced meat or lentils and served with a chutney like mango achar, and kheer, a dessert served piping hot, made of rice, raisins, cashews and cardamon seeds. They sound exotic and delicious.
Food is powerful: Sunday dinner in most houses is a time of strengthening and rejuvenation for the family. The familial binding bestowed on a business community by sharing a plate of spaghetti and meatballs is inspiring. The influence the aroma of roasting lamb, lemon and oregano have on the city of Portland is awesome.
Think of the possibilities that lie in a feast of samosas and kheer shared among the cities the size of Lake Oswego and West Linn.
Bon Appetit - Eat Together!
Jeff Lewis shares his father-in-law Angelo Semeraro's recipe for spaghetti and meatballs, known in their family as 'Semeraro Sunday Gravy.'
Semeraro Sunday Gravy
The recipe makes a family-sized batch, with leftovers!
¼ cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 small can of tomato paste
4 large cans whole tomatoes
4 medium onions
2 tablespoons oregano
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup dried parsley
¼ cup dried basil
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ cups Italian red wine
1 medium can tomato sauce
In a large stock pot at medium-high heat, heat olive oil; add garlic, stir a lot to keep garlic from burning, and add tomato paste. Combine each can of whole tomatoes with one onion and blend; add to the pot and stir. Add oregano, red pepper flakes, parsley, basil, sugar, salt and pepper, wine and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low and simmer.
One rack baby back ribs, cut in 4 rib pieces
4 hot and 4 mild Italian sausages, cut into thirds
Method: Brown ribs and sausage in the oven, add to sauce.
4 pounds meat; combination of ground beef, pork and or veal
1 ½ cups bread crumbs (make your own bread crumbs - the difference is huge!)
1 ½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup dried parsley
1/3 cup dried basil
4 eggs, stirred
¼ cup warm water
Combine all ingredients and mix really well. Add more bread crumbs or Parmesan cheese as needed. Make into small balls then brown in same oven pan as ribs and sausage, add to sauce.
Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, for three to five hours. Strip the meat off the rib bones, then remove the bones; serve with favorite pasta, Parmesan and a big green salad, fresh bread and Chianti.
Courtesy of Jeff Lewis, West Linn