Who are you? (I really wanna know)
We’re two women, living on opposite sides of the country from each other (sadly), who love to cook dinner for our friends. One of us (Petra) has an established weekly tradition. The other one (that would be Jeska) is just trying to get her party started. Or something.
How’d Monday Night Dinner start? And what exactly is Monday Night Dinner?
Petra: The only way that I can begin to explain the impetus behind MND is to say that too much BBC at a young age had a formative impact on my character. This is to say that after a steady diet of shows like “To the Manor Born”, “All Creatures Great and Small”, “Yes, Prime Minister”, and “The Flame Trees of Thika”, to say nothing of Dorothy L. Sayers I developed a desire to live inside a British drawing room comedy. Blame my parents who thought the BBC was a safe television choice.
When I graduated from Bryn Mawr and moved up to Boston I wanted to have a house full of people being witty and obscure. Combine that with my apparently compulsive need to feed people and you get Monday Night Dinner.
I think at this point Dinner has been held on every week night except Friday. It’s ranged in size from 4 to 16 people. Currently my version of MND is actually a WND (for which I cannot come up with a good WMD pun and this makes me very sad) and is usually 7-9 people. My current dining room table only seats 8, which is occasionally frustrating because I think Dinner works better when everyone can sit down at the table.
I think we’re pretty witty, although occasionally the conversation gets sidetracked into discussions about the feasibility of sex in hip-waders. We’ve never had a conversation about the Spanish War of Succession*, but I think we manage to hit obscure fairly often nonetheless. I don’t know that it’s exactly like a British sitcom, which on reflection is probably a good thing. But, it’s full of friends who’ve become family and I think that’s better than any wacky hijinks we might be missing.
*unlike my family which, sadly, has finished dinner on more than one occasion with several reference books on the table in order to determine the exact genealogical progression of the Spanish War of Succession.
So, how’s that Jeska person involved?
In the fall of 2002, I went to my first Monday Night Dinner (it actually was on Monday night then) as a friend of one of Petra’s roommates – and was immediately accepted into the “regular crew.” MND was great for me; I could escape campus once a week AND get homemade food. Who doesn’t want to leave the dining hall behind once in a while?
I’d just gotten back from a year abroad in Scotland, where I’d been forced to cook for myself for the first time. Talk about trial by fire – all I knew how to “cook” before I moved into my flat was a PB&J. Fast forward a year and I had most of the basics down: pasta, pasta, stir-fry, pasta. I was ready to learn more and Petra was kind enough to take me under her wing… or rather, to let me sit in her kitchen and watch as she whiped up elaborate meals.
Before Petra, I’d never really had any desire to cook, particularly not for crowds of people. That was my Mawmaw’s job at home – she was the family cook. I’d never even tried to learn anything from her when I was little. But after I started going to MND every week, something changed. I was entranced. The group changed a little every week, making each dinner unique. I met people I never would have otherwise – and I got to know them, in a way you only can when you’re sitting at a table, eating homecooked food, and involved in a conversation in which anything (ANYTHING) goes.
So, a year passed and I graduated and I left Boston… but I took with me the handwritten cookbook Petra’d put together for me of all her favourite recipes. And I vowed that when I had my own apartment, I’d start my own MND to carry the tradition to another city. And I have… to varying degrees of success. In DC, our version of MND had just started feeling comfortable, when I up and moved myself across the country.
And now, here I am in the Bay Area, trying to get the next generation of MND off the ground. We’ll see if this blog helps make that happen.
What will I find in this blog?
Recipes (with commentary), photos (from Jeska, who’s still trying to convince Petra that it’s okay to buy a digital camera even if all she does is take photos of her cat), and gratuitous pop culture references.