Team Dances With Legumes, based on the San Francisco peninsula, came together back in the fall of 2008—long before the One-Block Party contest ever began. Inspired by Sunset’s August 2008 story about our magazine’s efforts to grow an end-of-summer dinner, team leader Maryanne Welton and her friends and neighbors decided they’d launch their own series of grown-from-scratch dinners. For years now, this group of about two dozen people (kids included) have been getting together for regular seasonal feasts, using mainly what they’ve raised or made.
Their practice shows. I was amazed the amount and diversity of foods made by Team Dances with Legumes. It was all delicious, and I was full and content by the end of the meal. My thought was, if a small group of people can do all this, what if we all grew at least some of our own food? By working together, we should be able to wipe out hunger in this country, and have a great time doing it. —Margaret Sloan
The menu for our One-Block feast was long and varied and showcased the best of what we’d grown and produced ourselves. Our goal was to purchase as few items as possible, and in that we were very successful. The list of ingredients we used to augment our feast, in addition to the dairy and pork, included pepper, vanilla, the makings for the beer and stout, celery seeds, pistachios, yeast, and wine.
At the last minute we were short on limes for two dishes, so I sent out an email to my neighborhood group and was able to trade honey and jam for limes. I feel confident that with a little more time to plan we could have found ways to barter or trade for all the ingredients we needed. Well, maybe not vanilla, unless we develop a Central or South American connection!
The Jensens had given us a small hand-cranked apple press. Kirk cleaned it up and figured out how to put it together, and we gathered apples from a neighbor’s tree as well as our own. I chopped the apples in a food processor, and then Kirk and Julie cranked them down with the press. The sweet juice poured into waiting Mason jars. We called Nancy and Patrick over to share the taste of that just-pressed juice. It was incredible—and rewarding. It was a perfect symbol of everything we wanted from Dances with Legumes: shared resources, joint efforts and sweet bounties.
The setting for our final One-Block feast was peaceful and shaded. Tay’s family had prepared their terrace while Nancy and Cathi set the tables and decorated them with our flowers and garden produce—and tall beeswax candles from the Jensens.
Nancy spearheaded the creation of the butter molds. She even carved a beautifully delicate butter knife out of manzanita wood.
As the team members and family assembled, Nancy prepared hand-printed cards describing each dish.
There was a simmering frenzy at the last moments to have everything ready (and perhaps there was a slight level of stress and performance anxiety with a Sunset photographer and a writer there). At last the stage was set, everything was ready, and it was time to enjoy our harvest.
Here are just some of the dishes.
Grilled watermelon appetizers.
Wheat berry salad made from homegrown wheat.
Chilled vichyssoise decorated with bright blue borage flowers.
A cross-rib roast from the Jensens (they raised the steer themselves).
So, what did we learn from this great adventure? Creativity, commitment and flexibility were essential to the success of our feast. We figured out how to roll with the punches and keep our eye on the goal to sustain us through both the good and the frustrating times.
We had fun and shared lots of great food along the way. Friends, family, neighbors and work colleagues were intrigued, supportive and often inspired by our efforts. Not only were our gardens planted and nourished during spring and summer, so were our friendships and connections. We shared, we grew, we blossomed, we harvested—we danced through the seasons and enjoyed an incredible production at the end of the harvest.
Such is life, one cycle after another, always a new day to greet us, always something new to learn. It wasn’t our first dance, and it won’t be our last. Here’s to gardens, friends, and food. Long may they live!
Team captain Maryanne Welton (at right) leads a toast to Team Dances with Legumes.By Maryanne Welton, team leader
All photos by Rachel Weill
Posted and edited by Margaret Sloan, Sunset production coordinator