Michael Perry is one of my favorite authors - easily in my top five all time greats list. I want to attribute this entirely to his lyrical prose, his warmth, his ability to wrap his readers into a story so completely that you only surface hours later, almost gulping for air.
But I'm afraid that at least part of my devotion to Michael Perry is that in his most recent memoir, Coop, he introduced me to the concept of Sunday night popcorn dinner.
Perry is part of an extremely large family; his parents had biological children, fostered children, and adopted children during his entire childhood and young adult years. Money was tight, and feeding a brood that size was a gargantuan task that fell to his mother six nights a week. Sundays marked her day of partial rest. While she still made sure that everyone ate, the meal consisted of popcorn, sliced vegetables, cheese, and Kool-Aid spread out buffet style on their enormous dining room table. Everyone was allowed to bring a book to dinner, and the family read and munched along in filial accord.
I am not ashamed to admit that I stole this brilliant idea. I don't have any of Mrs. Perry's financial restrictions, nor do I deserve a rest from feeding a clan of ten or more hungry mouths. I'm just lazy and I adore junk food. So over the course of a few months, I slowly made a Sunday night snack dinner a Recluse family institution. It's now one of Red's favorite meals; any time I ask him what he'd like for dinner, there's a fifty/fifty chance that he'll reply "How 'bout that thing that you do on Sundays?"
Today isn't Sunday, but we had snacks for dinner anyway. Sometimes you've gotta be a rebel.
This is a little more elaborate than our usual spread. For example, we usually don't have sauteed mushrooms. Red's leaving for one of his six week business trips tomorrow, so when he asked for 'shrooms, I got to frying. If you're interested, the master recipe is right here. There are some variations, though - the first being that I steam-sauteed the mushrooms at first, then added about a clove of mixed garlic toward the end of cooking time. I used a tablespoon of Earth Balance, dried sage and about two tablespoons of Marsala wine to finish.
The artichoke dip is also a little different. I've been serving a vegan cheese spread for myself over the last couple months, but tonight I was feeling more ambitious. This is great stuff, and really simple to throw together on the fly. The only change I made to the master recipe (link here) is to omit the spinach, since I didn't have any handy.
Everything else is pretty much what you'd see any given Sunday. Sliced veggies, sliced apples or any other fruit I have handy (pineapple, cored and peeled, is on sale at Publix this week), crackers or bread, and of course, popcorn. I tried mollyjade's (of Scratch and Sniff) preferred popcorn seasoning mix tonight, and I have to say I was impressed. Bean liked it plenty, too.
The only downside of snack dinner is that it's so easy to overeat. This can be a problem if you have blood sugar issues; too much good food can make my blood sugar spike just the same as a bad food choice. The only way I've found to control my gluttony is to figure out what serving sizes I can reasonably eat of each snack, and fill up a small plate accordingly. Otherwise I lose track of how much I've scarfed. Red and Bean, though, can nibble from the serving plates to their hearts' content. Lucky things.
The best thing about snack dinner, besides the deliciousness? Almost no dishes to wash.
Alrighty - I have another vegabetic dessert on tap for tomorrow. This is one is smooth, creamy, and a littl more elaborate than the last. Have your spoons ready!