Food for the Heart and Soul

Greg and I love to eat. It’s been an important part of our relationship. Greg first tried to woo me with pumpkin pie made completely from scratch and then with the excuse that we try making palak paneer together, and he has continued to woo me with homemade chocolate chip pancakes on many a Saturday morning.

Food has been a form of exploration. Like many a young hipster couple, we have discovered the joy of making and eating homemade pizza. Greg has learned to make delicious homemade bread (including Hawaiian bread). I have made homemade tortillas and my own veggie & chicken stocks. He and I have even tested the waters of canning & preserving and cheese making.

Food is a way to more closely live out values of sustainability, justice and community. Greg and I try as much as possible to buy seasonal produce from local organic farms. We both think it is worth a few extra dollars to know the farms where our meat, eggs, milk, & produce come from. Greg and I feel that it’s important to invest in our neighbors, support a smaller environmental footprint, and feed our bodies with healthy food.

Lastly, food also brings us together. It can be a quiet moment in the midst of a hectic week in which we can talk, laugh, or simply be together. Or it can be a meal shared in fellowship with friends and family.

I say all that to illustrate all the ways Greg and I want the food to represent who we are as a couple and as individuals — a meal to bring a community of friends and family together that is sourced locally and tastes delicious.

I thought this would be a difficult task. Originally, I assumed that caterers in Western Iowa wouldn’t be interested in using local ingredients or that I would be left trying to track down where to find produce. Greg and I had even considered trying to figure out how to feed a host ourselves to make it work. Much like finding the venue, planning the meal for the reception has been a journey in discovering the not-so-hidden gems of Western Iowa.

It started with my grandpa mentioning that his good friend’s daughter Danelle had recently started an organic farm One Farm. I hadn’t even known there was an organic farm so close to home, so I was excited when Danelle linked me up with a second organic farmer Ellen who owns and operates, with her husband Daniel, Pin Oak Place an organic farm and CSA. And as fate would have it, Ellen just so happens to run a consulting business Farmtable Procurement which helps consumers source local foods for events, plan menus, and coordinate with caterers. Bingo!

Ellen, and her adorable newborn son Xavier, kindly met with Greg, my mom, and me when we were back at Christmas. Ellen asked about our favorite vegetables to which we listed a whole host of veggies (because how can you really pick a fav?) and our vision for the meal (which for Greg included roast hog), and she offered advice and suggestions based on her experience. This meeting was followed by Ellen emailing us recipes which we tested out in our kitchen here in Princeton, NJ and all of us bouncing off ideas. Ellen also connected us with Tracey at Main Street Market a caterer who Ellen has worked with in the past and who just so happen to recently buy a new grill on which they can roast the hog.

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My go at the kale and golden beet salad

And the final result? A menu that has our mouths watering & one that will hopefully have our guests excited:

  • Appetizers of 3 local cheeses, local grapes, and local bread
  • Sides of sweet corn salad, kale & golden beet salad, fresh watermelon, roasted sweet potatoes, and mac n’ cheese made with local cheeses
  • Main dishes of roast hog and confit byaldi for the vegetarians & vegans