Once upon a time, Chris and Karen met because of food. My aunt was preaching at a church on the other side of town. After the service, the church had a potluck and she sat at the same table as Chris, who was visiting the church for the first time. After dinner she told Chris she was going to a different church on the other side of town for dessert because her husband was the pastor over there. Chris followed her because of the paltry dessert selection at the first church.
When they arrived, my aunt made a beeline for me and announced, not quietly and with Chris only a few steps behind her, “I’m back and I brought a man.”
At the time, my first husband and I had been separated for six months and I had an attorney to represent me in a divorce, but the process was going slowly. I rolled my eyes and replied, “I’m not looking for a man. The last thing I need right now is another man.”
Three weeks later, Chris and I went on our first official date, to a wonderful restaurant in the North End of Boston. Chris ordered two plates of Butternut Squash Ravioli. I thought he was going to take one order home, but he ate them both.
Two years later, we moved to Florida. We quickly found a church and needed a way to get to know people. I wasn’t working at the time, so started hosting ‘At Home’ events every Tuesday evening. The name came from a 19th century practice. Women would pick an afternoon to be home. They had small cards, like a business card, with their address and the times they were at home. They would give these cards to others as an open invitation to stop by for tea during the times listed on the cards.
In our iteration, the invitation was for Tuesday evenings to accommodate those working outside the home. The invitation was open to everyone in the household, not just women. I asked people to let me know by Monday afternoon if they knew they would be there so I would have a way to judge how much food to make, but made it clear that they were still welcome to come at the last minute. Dinner was ready by 5 pm and people were welcome to come any time and stay until midnight. They were also welcome to stop and pick up a to go container if they didn’t have time to stay. Some weeks we had 3 people; some weeks we had 20. We ended these events a year after we moved because I was working full time.
When we got married 10 months after moving to Florida, I catered our wedding, with help from family and friends. A month before the wedding, Chris and I made and canned 68 quarts of spaghetti sauce, several quarts of which we used for the wedding. We started with 200 pounds of plum tomatoes, purchased from a local wholesale company that usually sells to restaurants. Once you turn the tomatoes into sauce, you add the seasonings and cook down the sauce to thicken it and develop flavor. This takes at least 4 hours. It took us 3 days to cook all the sauce. We took turns sleeping so someone was always available to stir the sauce so it wouldn’t burn.
We bought our house a couple years after we got married. We came up with the idea of turning the family room into a cafe themed dining space. We thought we would develop a menu of our favorite dishes. When we invited people over, we’d give them this menu as the invitation and they could pick out (in advance) whatever they would like to eat. We named this cafe Chez Verde — “Chez”, which you’ve probably seen as a name on many a fancy (or want-to-be fancy) French restaurant, is a French proposition which can translate as “at” or “to” or “among” and “Verde” is the Italian word for green. So Chez Verde = At the Greene’s. (We have lots of fun with green puns in this house.)
The menu as invitation idea and the original details of Chez Verde fell by the wayside when I went to law school. However, we still tend to refer to our kitchen as Chez Verde and the chalk board Chris built for the cafe still hangs in our kitchen.
In our happily ever after, we have experienced dramatic and unpredictable changes, but one thing remains the same: we love food and cooking. We’re excited to share our experiences with you. Welcome to Chez Verde!