Serenity is not the word that normally comes to mind when you think about having a weekly dinner for anywhere from 10 to 25 people.
Crazy, yes. Chaos, yes. Serenity…not so much.
Serenity — the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled (according to Google, anyway).
Strangely enough, though, serenity is often what occurs in the time before the craziness hits.
For the past nine years, I have been part of a group who meets for dinner on Sunday nights. We call it Sunday Night Dinner, or SND. (We like to save our creativity for the food.) Imagine having a holiday dinner every week. That’s kind of what it is like. We set a theme or main dish, and everyone brings something to contribute. There are several people who love to cook and experiment and lots of willing guinea pigs to sample the results.
Last night was pizza night. Sometimes someone will show up with a takeout pizza on pizza night, but usually it is free-styling homemade pizza. (On one pizza night, a random person once observed, “Wow! When y’all said pizza, I was thinking pepperoni or maybe sausage. But y’all get serious about some pizza!”)
We usually provide dough for the crusts and ask other people to bring whatever toppings they want and then we all share. Of course, we also throw in the toppings we like, too. Some of them get pretty creative!
Last night, we had red sauce, alfredo, and pesto for sauces. We had mozzarella cheese (obviously), cheddar cheese, and a parmesan/cheddar/Monterey jack blend. We had pepperoni, grilled chicken, sausage, Italian sausage, bacon, and Canadian bacon. We had fresh mushrooms, artichoke hearts, pineapple, onions, black olives, and probably some other things I am forgetting. You can build a lot of pizza with all of that!
We usually have a variety of crusts, ranging from homemade yeast doughs to pre-made store-bought crusts to pizza crust mixes. Last night, we bought dough from the local Sam’s Club deli cheaper than we could have made/bought anything else and it was great! It tastes homemade, but our lives were much easier.
Pizza night is easy and anyone can do it. Just press out the dough and start piling on the toppings. There is just one catch.
If you have a crowd, it can take a LONG time to get all the pizza cooked. Last night we started building pizzas and breadsticks about 5 pm and the last one didn’t come out of the oven until after 8. Of course, we were feeding sixteen people, so we made a LOT of pizza. (I think there were 7 large pizzas, 2 sets of breadsticks, and a batch of pepperoni bread.)
The first thing we made was cheesy breadsticks and pepperoni bread. That helps keep the crowd from complaining when the pizza is taking a long time. Of course, this group knows the pizza will be worth the wait, so we didn’t hear too much complaining!
It’s funny. That whole serenity thing. It happens often before everyone starts to arrive and we are just starting to get things prepared. But it also happens after everyone is eating, and the kids are running around crazy, and people are laughing, and the dogs are barking. I love the recharge I get from being able to have time with my chosen family every week. The satisfaction of belonging. Serenity can come from chaos as easily as it comes from calm and quiet.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.