FILED IN: House & Home

Anatomy of a Supper Club

I am blessed with a husband who is a great cook. He also enjoys cooking. I like cooking, but really only know how to cook a handful of things. When Warren and I first started living together, dinner was a team effort. Warren was alpha chef and I was beta. As beta, my duties involved minor prep work and clean up. When we moved into our house a few years ago, the kitchen had less space and I was booted from the cooking area completely. In the past year, other than preparing Satchel’s baby food, I have cooked dinner enough times to count on one hand.

Warren gets off work an hour before I do and on most days I can count on walking through the front door and getting to sit down to a delicious, and often elaborate dinner. On a normal day, Warren cooks like he is feeding an army, rather than the two of us. Word of this leaked and it is not unusual for a friend or family member to show up around dinnertime. One time, Marlinee came every day for a week. At one point, she was actually pulling up out front and we were taking out “to-go boxes” (her daughter was sick so she wasn’t allowed inside to possibly infect Satchel).

In the spirit of reciprocity (and more free meals), Marlinee suggested that we pick one night a week and alternate making dinner. So on Tuesdays, Warren and Marlinee took turns making dinner and our families got together to hang out and eat. It was fun, especially for the spouses and children! The only problem was that it seemed like someone was always sick, on the verge of getting sick, or recovering from being sick. So we ended up only getting together once or twice a month if we were lucky.

Despite this minor pitfall, word of our arrangement spread, and another friend, Julie, wanted in. Julie is a very practical woman and she told us that although she liked the social aspect of supper club, her husband Dan liked the “not having to cook” part better. So we instituted a “snot and cough” policy that stated that each week all food would be prepared to go and picked up. This has actually worked quite well. Whoever’s turn it is to cook sends out an email with the menu and the pick up time. Then the other two families come and get the food at the designated time. Often we all end up gathered at someone’s house hanging out and watching the kids play, while final preparations are made. A few times we have unpacked everything and eaten together.

When the supper club expanded to three families it became a bit of an “Iron Chef” competition. The culinary level of dinners and the portion size quickly got out of control. When it was our turn and Warren was working in the field, it was clear that I wasn’t going to be able to pinch hit. I panicked. None of my old stand-bys were worthy of supper club. Warren had to work all weekend and couldn’t even prepare something ahead of time. We ended up canceling. And we ended up yelling at each other. Then we considered calling the whole thing quits. We lost sight of the fun and it was becoming a chore, especially to Warren. But the thought of the two weeks when it wasn’t our turn kept us going. The next week, Warren made something simple, but delicious, and took the competition down a notch. Marlinee and Dan have followed suit.

Other things have come up and we have dealt with them accordingly. Picky eaters. Some of us like mushrooms, some of us don’t. Some of us like creamy sauces, some of us don’t. To avoid each and every week becoming a planning nightmare, the “chef du jour” has free reign to make whatever s/he wants. The “diners” can pick out the mushrooms, wash off the sauce, or politely get a burger on the way home. Dieters. Two spouses have started the Atkins diet. The same “picky eater” rule applies. The dieters eat what they can or get a burger (minus the bun) on the way home. (Since none of us are vegetarians, except Satchel, there’s always SOMETHING they can eat.) Untested dishes. We try to make dinners that are tried and true and not use supper club as a testing ground. Marlinee made a dish one night that everyone suffered through only to find out that she had thrown hers away and ordered pizza (Warren and I even had a “fight” over who had to eat the leftovers!).

Supper club has proven to be a good thing. The not cooking and the steady date aspects make it definitely worth the extra work and clean up once every three weeks. It has also given our Tupperware collection a major boost!