Tag Archives: #communitydinners

A Musical Feast: The Tanglewood Picnic and a Recipe for Whisky Sours that serves 106!

Tanglewood.Cover

As summer turns to fall, it is time to celebrate with at least one last giant picnic. If you are looking for inspiration, you will find it in The Tanglewood Picnic: Music and Outdoor Feasts in the Berkshires, a book that honors this grand tradition since its beginnings in 1937.

If anything brings people together as much as food, it is music. In Tanglewood these two traditions are intertwined. Each summer, 120,000 music lovers flock to the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home in Lenox, Massachusetts, to picnic during concerts.   Over the years, attendees have been serenaded by some of the world’s greatest musicians including  Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copeland, Yo-Yo Ma and many popular artists including James Taylor.

In the old days, simple picnics of sandwiches, soda, and cookies from Blue Heaven Turkey Farm, Samel’s Deli, and Angelina’s Subs were the norm. Al fresco dining at Tanglewood took a gourmet turn in the 1970s and ’80s with the establishment of Nejaime’s Wine Cellars, Crosby Catering, and Guido’s Fresh Marketplace. Nowadays everything goes–from casual grab-and go-sandwiches, paper napkins, and finger foods to fancy fixings complete with lace tablecloths, candelabras, and crystal goblets. Many picnickers have their own picnic food and drink traditions—from lobster sliders to signature cocktails.

Author Gina Hyams moved to the Berkshires ten years ago and became enchanted with the grand Tanglewood picnic ritual—how it’s both fancy and populist. She loves the magic of “lying on the picnic blanket and watching the moon rise and the stars come out as music fills the air.”

Like a beloved family heirloom, the tradition of picnicking at Tanglewood is passed down through generations. While researching this book, Gina met countless people who were first introduced to Tanglewood as children and who now share the experience with their own children and grandchildren.

Gina has written 12 books, but this is the first she has published under her imprint, Muddy Puppy Media. She  wrote and published the book as a kind of “collective love-letter” to the tradition of Tanglewood picnics. The book contains 150 photographs of picnickers from the 1940s through the present from the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives and from audience members’ family scrapbooks, plus a dozen classic recipes and the ultimate picnic checklist of tips compiled from expert Tanglewood picnickers. Gina says about the book, “I hope it serves as both a tribute to past picnics and as an inspiration for future ones.”

Happy picnicking!

The Tanglewood Picnic: Music and Outdoor Feasts in the Berkshires by Gina Hyams. Published by Muddy Puppy Media 2015.

Country Curtains Tanglewood Picnic Whiskey Sour Punch

Yields approximately 106 servings

Country Curtains has held its annual employee Christmas party at Tanglewood since 1968. Company founders Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick established the “Christmas at the Pops” tradition because they thought the December holiday season was so packed with parties, Christmas in the summertime would be a treat. They decorated their Tanglewood company picnics with red and green balloons, holiday napkins, and candles—a custom that continues today. Sometimes, even Santa and Mrs. Claus join the festivities.

2 1/2 gallons water

2 (24-ounce) packages Timmy’s sweet and sour cocktail mix

3 (12-ounce) cans of Minute Maid frozen lemonade concentrate

3 (1.7-liter) bottles of Seagram’s whiskey

Garnish

About 12 oranges, cut into half-moon shaped slices

3 (16-ounce) jars of Haddon House maraschino cherries

Ice

Pour all of the ingredients into a large insulated beverage jug and stir with a long spoon. Fill a punch bowl with ice, punch, oranges, and cherries. Add additional orange slices and cherry garnishes to each serving as needed.

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Sausages, Sauerkraut and How Good Food Leads to Great People: A Community Dinner at 18 Reasons

IMG_6001It was a Wednesday night and I had no plans. “A night all to myself with no where to be!” I thought gleefully. But when I came home to an empty house and a few meager plastic containers of cold pasta, my delight turned to despair.  I texted a few friends but everyone was busy. All dressed up with no place to go! But then I remembered reading about a Community Dinner at 18 Reasons.

Based in the San Francisco Mission across the street from the Bi-Rite Market, 18 Reasons is a community cooking school and so much more. Each month they offer a $10 community dinner featuring local producers. On the menu that night were Fatted Calf  sausages and homemade sauerkraut made by 18 Reason’s Executive Director, Sarah Nelson. I arrived to find about forty happy eaters seated together at long wood tables– from Mission hipsters to families with kids. 
IMG_6012Whether you are passionate about cooking, sharing a meal with friends, or learning about the food system, 18 Reasons has something for everyone. Their motto is “empowering your discovery of good food” which is exactly what they do through gamut of events and classes that engage  eaters, drinkers, cookers and crafters across the good food spectrum. Some of the most popular classes include a Basic Knife Skills (sells out every month!) and classes on the exotic (Flavors of Azerbaijan) to the fundamental (Whole Grain Primer) all taught by Chef Michelle McKenzie. Their film and lecture series includes both fun and serious food topics, from a screening of Babette’s Feast to a discussion of what it takes to be a farmer.  They also reach over 2,000 low-income families each year through their Cooking Matters program, a cooking and nutrition course that teaches adults, kids, and teens how to plan, shop for, and prepare delicious, healthy meals on a limited budget. Volunteer chefs and nutritionists contribute thousands of hours each year to the program, which is offered at partner sites throughout the Bay Area. Check out their full calendar and their schedule of Cooking Matters classes.
Through eating good food together, we discover our community. Our sausage and sauerkraut dinner felt like a big family feast with a bunch of long lost relatives. Of course the food was delicious, but even more so was the little girl who sat next to me. Now when I have a free night, I’ll know where I’m welcome: The next community dinner is on Wednesday, Jan. 29. The menu: Buttermilk Waffles, Benton’s Bacon, with Bourbon Barrel Matured Maple Syrup. Hope to see you there!

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