It’s a rare opportunity to gather in one restaurant and enjoy specialty dishes sourced from the Island by seven distinct chefs. All of which are, by the event’s design, also cookbook authors. And for these cooks, the stories are as important as the recipes.
The occasion was the second annual Cook the Vineyard! event presented by Martha’s Vineyard Magazine. Local chefs and cookbook authors Sarah Waldman, Laurie David, Kirstin Uhrenholdt, Chris Fischer, Jan Pogue, Susie Middleton, Joan Nathan and Karen J. Covey gathered at Lola’s restaurant, which prepared and served a multicourse meal, with each course based on a recipe from participating chefs’ cookbooks. Sissy Biggers, a lifestyle television host and a seasonal resident of Oak Bluffs, served as emcee for the event.
A summer corn fritter recipe from blogger Sarah Waldman’s cookbook Little Bites was served as guests mingled and were introduced to the event. Little Bites, co-authored by Christine Chitnis, is a collection of kid-friendly snack recipes that are versatile and can be easily modified to satiate varied appetites and please grown-up palettes too.
A number of Little Bites recipes are inspired by the likes and dislikes of Ms. Waldman’s young children. “My son Dylan loves sweets and chocolate — so instead of saying no to chocolate and having a negative discussion about food we make homemade chocolate fudge pops together with full-fat coconut milk, unsweetened coconut powder, local honey and berries,” she said.
Similarly, her corn fritters are easy to feed little eaters, and versatile. “Corn is a familiar vegetable to most children and the recipe is really adaptable. If someone doesn’t like bell pepper, add zucchini, squash or chopped spinach. And small fritters are easy for toddlers and babies to hold and eat,” she said.
Efficiency is another tenet of the book’s recipes. Using a base recipe that all age groups can enjoy affords families more time together at the table. “We should give kids more credit. We don’t have to dumb down food for them,” she said.
Families bonding over meals figured prominently into the authors’ introductions of their work. The ritual of dining as a family inspired Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt to write The Family Cooks. “One thing I did right as a parent was insist on family dinners,” said Ms. David.
“What happens at the table really only happens at the table. It is the number one place where adults share family stories. And when you stop eating together, you stop telling those stories,” she said. “There is research on this, it is not just my view,” she added. Roasted cauliflower popcorn with cucumber yogurt from The Family Cooks was served midway through the meal.
Chris Fischer, author of The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook, a compilation of recipes and an homage to his family, also opined on the preciousness of mealtime. “I am a product of family meals,” he said. “Growing up I was forced to be home at 6:30 every night. It was a joke with my friends that no matter what we were doing I would just disappear at 6:25,” he said.
Every culinary creation was palatable, but the course that was perhaps most appreciated by diners was the sweetest of all. Mr. Fischer’s blueberry cobbler dessert was consumed in few bites.
In conversation with the audience Mr. Fischer referred to the metaphorical pantry of the Vineyard, suggesting that cooking is easy if you can find the perfect ingredients.
“I spend most of my time getting food, which translates into making very simple recipes,” he said.
He even offered practical advice for anyone inclined to pick their own blueberries and recreate the cobbler. “Find a coffee can somewhere, poke holes in it, and tie it around your neck like a necklace,” he said. “If you’ve never gone blueberry picking that’s how you do it.”