On a fall day, early in October, Natasha sifted through her collection of cookbooks to find the perfect recipe for her next nutrition club meeting. The wide-eyed, newly appointed kitchen manager sat quietly, deep in thought about the mechanics of compiling grilled sandwiches for 100 people. She had previously mapped out all 12 meetings, with grand recipes featuring heartwarming lunches. But unfortunately, her plans for Meatball Sandwiches with Pesto Aioli and a side salad with pecans, cranberries, and bleu cheese were thwarted by an impossible budget.
She flashes back to that fateful Wednesday afternoon, last minute grocery shopping due to her propensity for procrastination. As the young student crossed items off her list, the numbers started adding up in her mind. She reached the checkout and paid, not too terribly alarmed at the total. Heading off to the next store for bread, her helpful fiancé texted an idea: “why don’t you make spaghetti and meatballs?” He knew she was struggling after he came back with a rather large ground beef bill from Costco the night before. Natasha stopped abruptly while making her way down the condiment isle. “That would be cheaper,” she thought. “But spaghetti? That’s so boring.” However, it was 30 minutes until she had to leave for work and a decision had to be made. With a large expense just put towards a convenience item for the meetings, her ability to consistently meet the budget was essential to the success of the club. Not wanting to start off poorly, she poured 10 boxes of pasta and 3 jugs of tomato sauce into her cart and left. At the meeting though, the poor start she tried to avoid ended up affecting the club members. While there was plenty to go around, the less-than-stimulating meal was received by faces of insipidness. She noticed far too many large, softball sized meatballs sitting lonely on abandoned plates.
After such a debacle, the optimistic but regretful kitchen manager was forced to rethink her plans for the remaining meetings. Nothing means more to Natasha than the joy of cooking. The pure excitement of researching ingredients, pairing flavors, and planning meals made her feel as if each plate passed on a piece of her heart. She believes that food has the power to inspire people. Family meals can bring a gloomy Gus to a place of comfort and happiness; going out to dinner with friends can turn even the most hapless days into good ones.
After a stressful day at work or school, nothing can free her mind more than the repetitious chop-chop-chopping of fresh produce. And the focus and concentration it takes to simply and perfectly brown a roasted dish- while trying to make sure the rice is flavored just-so, and comes out at exactly the same time- would make the world float away. Many nights, Natasha’s roommates would come home to her cooking away in a dark kitchen, her mind so wrapped up in the glamour of preparing a meal that she would forget to turn the lights on as the sun went down.
The leftover meatballs would haunt her; the glamour she so wished to share with others had been tragically diminished. The nutrition student vowed to take on the monetary challenge of preparing spectacular meals that fall day. She had learned in school that not everyone can afford to buy quality foods; the organic, free-range options were not realistic for the everyday Joe. Even standard ingredients could prove a hassle if too many were required, as in the case of the woeful meatball sandwich idea. But she would never resort to spaghetti and meatballs ever again! A daring feat it was, but a journey she was thrilled to embark upon.
With October in full swing and Halloween decorations all around, her mind then turned to what any college student would associate with the season: beer! (Ok, so pretty much any season would make a college student think about beer). Oktoberfest originally started as a marriage celebration for a German King in 1818. Germany and many other countries around the world now take the opportunity to drink lots of beer and enjoy lots of food during the month. Natasha’s father would often cook a traditional family sauerkraut meal and she immediately knew she had to share it with the club. Ah, the joys of meal planning softened her worried heart as she retreated to her family cookbook. The kitchen manager then used her food service skills to factor out the recipe for 75 people (there is to be no more food waste at her meetings!), assemble a shopping list, estimate a cost, and write out the directions for her trusty assistant, Bernadette. The true test still lies ahead, as the meeting looms in the distance. Will Natasha and Bernadette be able to pull off a truly fantastic meal on a dreadful budget? Will the FN Forum club members rejoice at the magnificent plate of food they receive? Tune in next week to find out! Or just go to the FN Forum meeting Thursday, October 24…