Pesto and Peaches: On color and compromise and acceptance

We served a completely orange dinner at Catholic Charities on Tuesday.

Joseph is volunteer head cook a few times a month, which he started doing several years ago because he likes to help and loves to cook. These days the menu is written on a white board by staff, and Joseph helps us figure out how to execute it without hurting ourselves. It is more assembly and hefting of colossal jars and frypans — than actual cooking.

On Tuesday, the menu was (I am sure accidentally) orange-ish:

Spaghetti with meat sauce
Cabbage-Carrot Slaw
Rolls
Peaches
Cookies
Iced Tea

With a team of volunteers whose only requisite skill was that they be willing to brave an industrial kitchen, we surveyed the assembly pieces.

Several jars of assorted spaghetti sauces in flavors from “Arrabiata” to “Four Cheese”
A bin* of seasoned ground meat
Myriad packages of spaghetti (thankfully all the same shape — no fettucine or cappellini thrown in)
A bin of sliced canned peaches
A bin of cold rolls
A bin of slawed cabbage and carrots
A can of instant iced tea

Now —

How much salt to put in the water for spaghetti enough for 50?

How much oregano to put into 10 jars of sauce to make it more like mamma’s?

How long to keep 50 rolls in a convection oven?

What to do when there is no garlic powder?

Joseph took the reins and helped us think through these problems of scale, as the team of six donned aprons and set to boil enough water in a supersize pot and find a spoon long enough to stir through the meat and sauce mixture, while not knocking into each other too much.

We added ground cloves to the canned peaches, more and more and more spice to the sauce, and mixed four different bottles and brands of dressing to cover the slaw — brilliant orange French being predominant, in keeping with the accidental theme.

Only one woman remarked that everything seemed to be pretty fall colors. We were the only ones who found the menu to be somewhat distastefully monochromatic. Many came back for seconds. One man just wanted slaw over his pasta. Another woman wanted meat sauce no carbs. A tiny blonde boy ate a plate full of food almost the same size as his dad’s. It was a good night.

It didn’t LOOK so good on the trays, but it sure did what it was supposed to do.

Several evenings later, when Joseph and I were idly poking through the local equivalent of Williams and Sonoma — a delightful home store in Old Town Fort Collins called Cupboard, we admired the multicolor displays of dishes.

Joseph and I share a penchant for color. But his dishes at home are white. My bowls in storage are green and blue and orange and red.

“I know we like color, but I am fond of white dishes. You have to give the food its rightful priority.”

I thought for a while about the possibilities: Basil Pesto on a Blue Plate. Sweet Potato Bisque in a Pink Bowl. Dilled Beets on a Green Platter.

Yes, Joseph. Your white plates are perfect.

Can we just hang some Mexican tapestries on the wall, and maybe put my bowls on the counter to hold a fistful of daisies?

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*By “bin” I mean those deep metal pans you remember from chow lines you have known, that are set over simmering water when necessary to keep hot food moderately warm.

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