Is it possible that we have recreated the Tower of Babel by emoji? With the right string of icons, anyone can now communicate by smiley face or thumbs up. And, new smart phones feature them as one might find an alphabet or keyboard of letters. It’s easier than ever before to connect and communicate. Or, is it? Deep down, I wonder.
Years ago, I used to take walks with a friend who also worked as a community manager, managing the online community for her company through social media. We wondered out loud about how to give the right content to our community, flooding their feed regularly with mouth-watering snapshots of food that they had signed up for. It sometimes gave us pause to scratch underneath the surface of what it is exactly that they had signed up for. And, more importantly, how could we create and curate content that would get to that deeper impulse underneath appreciation for a branded product in the grocery cart, transferred to the pantry and then to Facebook. We would hike around the edges of Lands End in San Francisco and mull what our customers didn’t see about the food industry–the things that can be maddening like free-fills in retail stores (providing free stock to a store to sell through but the company not reaping any profit on those items) or how sometimes people visit company web pages with the sole aim of discord. I lived for those walks. And in hindsight, I can see that part of what made them invaluable was the companionship of someone who understood the inner workings of the business side of the social platforms that for some are time sucks for most people, as time for personal fun.
Moving to a new town, not so far away, and yet not close enough to tie on my walking shoes and drive or take two forms of public transportation to traipse through the quiet hills on the edge of Lands End evenings after work, I’ve had to change my rhythm. And, this has included walks with food writer friends to talk about cookbooks, blogging, and the inner workings of living life digitally and by recipe. I have stepped into a leadership role with IACP. This new rhythm also included joining a local meet-up for Food Content Creators. Around a table with mugs of hot tea, several of us meet regularly as part of a writing group I cherish. How we form community in our everyday lives as we get older and especially in the transient world of big cities can nudge you out. I was reminded recently how sometimes the places we think we might find community can make us feel marginalized and unexpectedly more alone in a group of people than we were by ourselves at home.
This brings me to the idea of a Sunday roast. It strikes me as subject matter for Norman Rockwell, where all eyes around the table watch as the carving fork stabbed the meat and the slender knife trimmed juicy slices. Growing up, this tidbit of Americana cuisine passed over our house. Instead, on a good Sunday, my mom and I might venture out to Luby’s where I awaited crispy fish and mashed potatoes with a pool of tartar sauce. Maybe the point of the Sunday roast was to start cooking something that would be finished and ready to eat when you returned home after church. I don’t honestly know. Instead, there is a mystique to that meal and the idea that Sundays meant gathering around the table for this traditional repast. So, what kind of food do you eat on Sundays? At one point, Olga and I had the intention of making Sunday supper a place to invite friends regularly to the table. We wanted it to be a given that dinner would be served and friends would be welcome. It never came to pass, ultimately falling into the bin where good ideas go to fester.
So, where do you congregate with your community? Does it happen on a specific day each week or does it instead only happen at holidays and celebrations? In the age of the emoji, communicating might be simpler than ever before, but community is more complex. The table itself has become sometimes the symbol of dissonance where one person’s avoidance stems from a political perspective or allergies impact menu planning. But, it doesn’t have to be difficult. The simple Sunday roast might not make the cut anymore. So, instead, I offer the suggestion of a Sunday Roast Cauliflower where the crown of the platter comes cruciferous with crispy edges. It’s plentiful enough to carve into to serve your community, wherever you find it.
Sunday Roast Cauliflower
If you’ve never roasted a whole cauliflower before, it leaves quite an impression upon all who partake of it. Imagine spearing it like you might a steak and pulling out your most trusty sharp chef’s knife to hack a section of the head to serve. And, who doesn’t like turning the idea of a Sunday roast on its head (of cauliflower). I like to make this dish during the week when my workdays run long and I need more time tying up that day’s details. It fills the house with the aroma of onions as a reminder that while I’m working, so is dinner. We serve this with steamed jasmine rice and spoon the Tea Umami sauce on it from Steeped or Carrot Top Pesto. Comfort food comes to the table roasted during fall and winter.
5 carrots, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 cup celeriac, peeled and chopped into 2-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
1 head cauliflower, cored with the leaves removed
1 tablespoon plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 375. Place the carrots, celeriac, garlic and onion in a bowl. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil over them and toss to coat. Distribute them evenly in a Dutch oven. Crown the vegetables with the head of cauliflower. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the cauliflower and vegetables. Cook for 1 hour. Crank up the oven to 415 and cook for an additional 15 to 18 minutes to brown the top of the cauliflower a bit more.