Friday Lunch Guide
Here is a guide to planning and preparing ESG Community Friday Lunches.
Guidelines for Friday Lunch Chefs
Cooking Friday lunch is a wonderful way of contributing to the ESG community. It is fun and makes everyone very happy. That said, it is a real commitment and once you sign on for Friday lunch, the community will depend on you to follow through. Friday lunch chefs are paid by the donations made by those who eat the lunch--if you cook, you get the kitty. The amount chefs makes generally ranges from $80 to $100, depending on how many people show up for lunch on any given day.
There are some rules of thumb that will help to make Friday lunch preparation very doable without it becoming overly stressful or too time consuming. If you are used to cooking for large groups who need to eat more or less simultaneously, much of this info will seem familiar. Either way, please take a few minutes to read the suggestions below before diving in on lunch preparation. A little advanced planning goes a long way to making everything run smoothly.
You'll need to make enough for anywhere from 30 (on a slow day later in the term) to 60 people. Ask Holly or Graham about exact numbers—each term is slightly different and we can help you gauge how many to cook for.
You will be responsible for the entire lunch menu: main course, beverages, and dessert if you choose to supply one. Take care when choosing your menu. As a rule labor-intensive dishes don’t work well, such as dishes that require lot’s of chopping or construction. Soups or stews are popular, as are casseroles. Pasta is always a favorite. Dishes that require lots of labor in chopping or construction can be too time consuming, so think carefully about how long it will take to prepare. In general, most of the “prep-work” should be done the night before, so that you are left with only the cooking parts in the morning before lunch. Try not to use Friday lunch to try out elaborate new recipes. There are a number of recipes on the ESG website. You can look there for ideas, or add recipes of your own.
There is no hard and fast rule, but by tradition, ESG lunches include a vegetarian alternative. If, however, your main dish is veggie, you need not include meat.
You will be responsible for choosing, purchasing, and making arrangements for all groceries to arrive at ESG. We ask that we keep the food budget to under $225. Often ingredients will cost much less, occasionally more. If you are concerned that you menu is going to send you way over budget, see Graham or Holly to discuss before you spend the money.
We commonly use Peapod, an online grocery ordering and delivery service. If you choose this option, you must order your groceries online BEFORE 2:00 p.m. on Wednesdays in order for the food to arrive in time for Thursday afternoon. Peapod will not guarantee specific delivery times, so having the food arrive on Friday is too late. Ordering though Peapod is quite easy and does not require you to have any money up-front for groceries. To place a Peapod order, go to their website at Peapod.com and follow the ordering instructions. You will need to get a password and account name from Graham.
You can choose instead to do your own shopping in person, but you will have to front the money for the groceries and get reimbursed. This generally takes about a week from the time you turn in your receipts to Graham.
Beyond the ingredients you will need for the food itself, you must be sure that there are plenty of utensils, paper plates, bowels, beverage cups, napkins, and any other sundries that are required to either serve or eat the meal.
Timing and serving:
There will be a hungry crowd at 12:30. Lunch must be ready to serve pronto at 12:30. Those with classes from noon to 1 will show up shortly after 1 (we call this the "one o'clock elevator"). You will divide the lunch food into two servings, and hold approximately ½ of the food in reserve so that the late-comers will get fed too.
Depending on what you cook, you may have to stay in or near the kitchen all throughout lunch, putting out more food, filling the drink pitchers, whatever. You are responsible for the entire lunch, not just cooking and leaving. You could also ask someone else to help out with serving if you have a 12:00 or 1:00 class.
How to cook
Check out the kitchen if you haven't done so already. The range has a good deal of stove space, and one conventional oven. We also have a medium-capacity microwave. Review the stock of available pots and pans to see that everything you need for your menu is available. Cooking requires good time-management skills. If you are used to cooking for small number of people, you will need to alter your strategy for Friday lunch. For instance, if chopping vegetables takes ten minutes of time compared to an hour of cooking time for a regular recipe, a ratio of 1 to 6, making enough for 60 might take ten times as much preparation time but the same cooking time. Similarly, if you're boiling pasta, for instance, you may need 40 minutes to get a big pot of water boiling, but the boiling time (typically 8-10 minutes) will be the same.
Cleaning as you go is essential in a kitchen the size of the one at ESG. We have limited counter and sink space, and a limited number of cooking tools. If you clean as you go and/or load the dishwasher, you will have more space and, contrary to what might seem intuitive, more time as well. Trying to work around a messy and reduced work space takes up a lot of time. Piling dirty pots or mixing bowls in the sink leaves no room to use the sink for anything else—DO NOT USE THE SINK AS STORAGE SPACE FOR DIRTY DISHES!
Utensils for cooking:
Check them out your tools the day before to see if they are (a) here and (b) sharp. ESG has some good knives and pans, but only a few pans that can handle huge volumes. Casserole pans come and go. If you need more than what we have, you should pick up (or order from Peapod) some disposable aluminum ones when you get food.
Spices at ESG are strange in many respects. We have lots of unusual spices, but seem to never have enough pepper. Look at what we have before you buy any new spices. If what we do have seems too old, feel free to toss it and buy some new. If you buy something fairly common (black pepper, oregano, parsley, etc.) buy a big bottle or jar. We can always use spices for other Friday lunches down the line.
Something special to drink is nice but not essential. It's pretty easy to make something simple. Frozen lemonade or apple juice is cheap and seems to satisfy the masses. Powdered drink mixes will suffice. Butter and margarine often stay around ESG longer than they should, so if there is any in the public fridge, do a nose test and get new stuff as necessary. If you need the public fridge to store things overnight, you should put up a sign indicating that the contents are not for public consumption yet.