When I got divorced in 2007, my ex left town. The agreement re our children was that the accepting parent would pay for travel. The agreement said that he could take them for summers and alternating holidays... but he didn't.

One of the things that saved my life that first year was a food group. No, not grains, vegetables, fats... a group of people. I called them the Food Fairies because it was magic, like the shoemaker and the elves.

Four families were involved. I started as a fill in alternate and then begged steadily until a family left. The group had been going for years. Monday was my day off and my food day. I cooked for 15 people: three other families of four and my family of three. Then I delivered to the other three households. Then I was done cooking until Saturday! On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, food would appear in my kitchen, made and brought by the other three families!

We alternated, two families making vegetarian meals each week and two meat. We were supposed to bring three things: a main dish, salad, bread. Or a main dish, dessert and a vegetable. Or whatever! I made corned beef and cabbage, with potatoes and carrots. I considered that cheating a bit, because it's so easy. But it was popular. Another family made a wonderful baked tofu with a peanut sauce and I wish I had the recipe. I would make my raw tomato and olive pasta sauce, chopping pounds and pounds of tomatoes. My kitchen always looked like a bomb had gone off in it. I had to add 2 hours to my usual recipe time for shopping, chopping things and delivery. We usually delivered into other people's containers, so that we would not have to figure out the owner.

Every so often we would have a group dinner to check in. All 8 kids were fairly close in age and the 7 adults would sit and talk. My son argued one night that our high school football team should keep their name of Redskins, blessed by the local tribe, but now they are the Redhawks. We were scolded about cooking using our hands, though all of the people who cooked carefully avoided each others' eyes, since we were all guilty.

It broke up after a year, when two of the people who cooked went to graduate school. I was bummed and would happily join another group.... but it was lovely while it lasted and taught me to cook for a larger crowd than I had cooked for before. And when I trailed home from doctoring and call and deliveries, there was food and I did not have to cook...

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