In Mediterranean families, there’s no such thing as cooking a small meal. When my mother made dinner, it could easily feed the neighborhood, and it often did. There was always enough to share. It was from those experiences around my childhood table, with family, friends, and neighbors gathered round, I developed my own cooking philosophy: there’s always room around the table.
Never did I think that “table” would extend to over a hundred people at a time.
I’ve always loved sharing my love of cooking with others, so it’s no surprise that my now-husband figured it out pretty quickly when we started dating. Just a few months after our first date, he asked for my help cooking dinners for a monthly meeting he had with about twenty people. The things we do for new boyfriends (really, could I say no?!), but I absolutely LOVED it. Twenty people was a manageable number – some recipes only had to be doubled or tripled. I could manage that! The people I cooked for were gracious and grateful, and there was something deeply rewarding about making food for people beyond my own table.
A few months after I started to cook those dinners, autumn was on the horizon. My husband works for a large fall event that relies heavily on volunteers (including the wonderful Sarah!) and for the last seven weeks leading up to the event, they host a weekly meeting for 120 people to go over event details. The person who had cooked dinner for that group for many years was no longer able to, so my new-ish boyfriend and I started to discuss what it would look like for ME to cook a weekly dinner for that many people. I was lucky to be working from home at the time, so I had the flexibility to do it but was daunted by the task of feeding such a massive group of people. I was a home cook, not an event caterer! I worried about the logistics – how I would pick recipes, shop, and cook for that many people? Would we run out of food every week? Would people hate my cooking? Would I give everyone food poisoning the week before the event?!
But you guys, spoiler alert: I didn’t kill anyone! There was a learning curve, but every week the prep got easier, and the food got better.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be back here sharing tips and tricks for planning, shopping, and cooking for a crowd. Whether it’s 20 people or 200, the planning is similar. I can’t promise you won’t break a sweat doing it, or that it’ll be a breeze, but I can promise that it will be SO rewarding to watch the faces of your people as they dig into a meal made with love.
Amanda is a wife, dog mom, and avid home cook. She loves the outdoors, books, and would always rather be at the beach.