D.C.'s Supper Girls
The Supper Girls are a group of 10 young, accomplished women. They all live and work in the Washington area, but hail from a mix of home bases -- from Nigeria to Sonoma, Calif., Nashville to western Maryland. They are single and married, omnivorous and vegetarian and fit somewhere in the 25-40 age demographic.
The smorgasbord of backgrounds and personalities is fitting for a group that meets once a month to cook supper together. Since June, 2005, these women, who call themselves The Gourmet Girls, have gathered in each other's homes for a long evening of kitchen prep, recipe exchange, high drama (they all met through a theater group at Georgetown University Law School) and feasting on each other's culinary contributions.
No Gourmet Girls feast would be complete without the addition of wine -- and this group has two resident oenophiles -- one in the biz and another who's built a professional-quality "cellar" in her closet -- to keep things fluid, if you will.
This month's supper club was held last night in the one-bedroom D.C. apartment of a 30-something former child star turned lawyer. The theme: New Orleans. Upon opening the apartment door, I was greeted by the sound of warm, bubbly notes of laughter and yes, girlish excitement. Just a few inches beyond the door, I witnessed an amazing beehive of activity. Some were chopping vegetables in the living room, while kneeling or with cutting board in lap. A few others were squeezed into the galley kitchen, sharing burners and queuing up for oven time. One woman was practicing mixology, emerging with a pitcher of Hurricanes, the potent pink punch of New Orleans.
It was a sight to behold, and all I kept thinking was, Am I really in Washington, where "hello" to a stranger is an exception rather than the rule.
How well they got along, how much they liked, no loved, each other, and how they cherished the opportunity to push aside their busy urban lives for an evening at the Supper Club. One member, Melanie, showed up with gumbo (made with her own ham stock) despite the fact that she was in the countdown to her wedding this weekend. Elle, the lone vegetarian, announced that she had to be at work at six in the morning, but that didn't appear to stop her from shucking several ears of corn on the carpet and cooking maques choux (Cajun creamed corn) in three-inch heels.
With such a huge menu, the food emerged in stages, and the evening, which began with Kristen's beer-boiled shrimp and Wendy's fried okra coated in cornmeal, was a multi-hour, multimedia performance that included show-stopping food and spontaneous singing of show tunes. And the food -- that is why we gathered, but in some way, it seemed almost beside the point -- was well executed and prepared with love. We supped on oysters Rockefeller casserole, cornbread, shrimp and grits, spicy eggplant, an irresistible green bean-y thing and bread pudding, which was packed in a makeshift "go" cup so this weary guest could get home.
As I rolled out of there, my belly and heart full, I thought about whether I could pull off what these women have been doing for the past 22 months. In this lightning-paced town, it's hard enough to keep dinner plans at a restaurant, let alone cook as an ensemble in someone else's kitchen!
Apparently, their enthusiasm is rubbing off; a Gourmet Girls chapter has since spawned in Austin, Tex., and another Washington group is in the midst of plans for its first feast.
Thank you Marianne aka "Mab," Melanie, Heather, Melissa, Elle, Wendy, ChiChi, Karen, Jocelyn and Kristen. Call me anytime.
Talk to me today at noon, for this week's edition of What's Cooking.
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