At the end of last year and after much deliberation, the kitchen partner and I joined a new church a bit closer to our St. Paul home. We’ve been members for just a few weeks and are going through that tough stage where there are lots of friendly faces but still a sense of “we’re-on-the-outside-looking-in.” Thankfully, this church has one of the best (and most fun!) remedies to fix this for us. Each month they hold an event called “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” and this past weekend the kitchen partner and I attended our first one.
The premise is simple: Â Each month, people from the church get together for a dinner party where the identities of the hosts and guests are kept secret from each other. When the dinner date approaches, we submit an online RSVP form that says “Yes or No, we can attend this month” and whether we’d like to be a guest or a host for the meal. Then a central organizer puts together all the information and completes the match-ups. A week or so after our RSVP we were given an address and the instructions to bring an appetizer for 10. Until we knocked on the door, the kitchen partner and I had no idea who would be at dinner, and the hosts had no idea who would show up either!
As exciting and fun as the evening was, you can imagine the conversation the kitchen partner and I had leading up: Â “What should I wear? Formal? Casual?” “What if we’re the youngest/oldest/weirdest/newest ones there?” “What if we go to the wrong person’s house?” “What if no one likes what I bring?”
Okay, let’s be honest. I was the one badgering him with all the questions. These things are stressful for What-if folks like me!Â Yikes!
The biggest stress leading up to the dinner was what to bring as my dish to share. Â An appetizer for 10 sounds simple, but without knowing the specifics of what else was on the menu or anything about the guests’ preferences, it was incredibly challenging. I’m so used to being in complete control in the kitchen or doing some research before I bring my coordinated dish to pass. To me, assembling the perfect meal gives me the same satisfaction as my fashionista friends feel about being perfectly accessorized.
In the last hours before the dinner I went with a standby: bruschetta with locally grown oven-roasted tomatoes on a garlic-buttered crostini. Sometimes you have to just trust in ourÂ wisest food advisors: One can never go wrong with warm cheese on mini pieces of toast. Â It’s human nature to love such things.
Somehow I managed through my nervousness and made it to dinner. As it turns out, crusty, cheesy, bruschetta is exactly the right thing to set in a circle of strangers as they become friends. The rest of the meal went by smoothly, full of good conversation and good food. I think that’s my favorite message behind Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: no matter where you are or who you are with, there’s always safe ground to be found when you come together to break bread. Â As long as the food is good, everyone will be just fine. Even with strangers!
Here’s a sample of the recipe I took for dinner:
Three Cheese Crostini