We've been talking a lot about FEED Supper this month: sharing recipes and DIY ideas, announcing partnerships and telling you about the children and families who will be helped by the 2 million meals we hope to raise. With two weeks left to host, we thought it might be helpful to show you what it looks like to actually host a FEED Supper.
So we asked our very dear friend, and FEAST cookbook author, Sarah Copeland, to show us how it's done. She kind of blew us away with her gorgeous Upstate New York Supper under the stars. But what blew us away even more was her beautiful commitment to bringing her community together around the dinner table (which her husband built!) to truly focus on the cause. Today, Sarah is answering a few of our questions and taking us through the order of events at her little gathering this past weekend. If you're searching for FEED Supper inspiration, look no further!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a cookbook author/food editor (food director at Real Simple Magazine) and mama of two, raising my little family with my husband, Andras.
You hosted a beautiful FEED Supper last year, which we featured through a takeover on our Instagram. Why were you excited to host a FEED Supper again this year?
Hosting a FEED Supper was one of our favorite memories from last year. I still remember every detail of working together as a family that weekend to pull it together (at the time, my daughter was three, and I have photos of her in a Cinderella gown hanging our FEED Supper banner). The minute FEED announced the dates for year two, we started talking about it again. I was surprised by how many meals we were able to raise last year with just one tiny gathering around our dining table, so we were excited to try to double last year’s goal, and make a bigger impact (with a bigger table!). We decided to ask our friend Anthony of Zio and Sons, who was one of our guests last year, to co-host so that, together, we could reach and help even more people.
Set the scene for us. What details did you focus on to bring this gathering for good to life?
Last year, as I put together our FEED Supper invites, I realized our table wasn’t big enough for our guest list—so my husband quickly built us a bigger one. When I asked him if he could build two new tables for this year’s supper (he just launched his own furniture company, Hudson Workshop), I was dreaming of a twinkly-light Supper, right by the barn, with as many friends as possible squeezed around them. It felt pretty symbolic to commemorate growing our family and his business simultaneously while growing our support for our favorite cause.
What was the inspiration behind the menu for your Supper?
We wanted to prepare a simple, but beautiful, Hungarian feast and introduce our friends to something we love from Andras’ culture. We’ve had a lot of celebratory meals (like our wedding in Hungary) over a big pot of Guylas—it’s a simple, beautiful meal full of flavor, cooked over a live fire in a bogracs. It hails from peasant culture, but it is a very rich dish that feels just right to ring in fall. It's lavish in flavor but not lavish in ingredients, so we could concentrate on the giving back part of the meal.
In Hungary, the host makes the Guylas, and everyone else brings bread, pastries and wine and everybody sits out by the fire well into the night. We wanted to bring a little Hungary to upstate New York—it’s the perfect setting and weather for a big warm stew and lots of butter and bread.
Your home in Hurley, NY is beautiful and lends itself so well to hosting dinner parties. What makes FEED Supper different from other gatherings you’ve hosted?
I loooove a house full of people, and would have a dinner party every weekend if I could, but with two young kids at home, it’s important to have down time to spend with them. But this was something we really wanted to make happen. Feeding people as a way to give back has been a part of my life as long as I can remember, and I am excited to share that with my children. Both kids were with me gathering and shopping all week, harvesting a few special things from our garden, cooking and pulling the whole thing together. We explained to Greta (now four) why we were going through all the fuss, and how the money we would raise would help other kids. We wanted her to understand that even as a little kid, she can do something to help other people in her own home. Her eyes lit up every time she got to help with something on our list, which helped me remember that the goal of this wasn’t to make everything perfect, but simply to focus on the needs of those whom the evening would help.
FEED Supper is built on the idea that food has the power to bring people together around a shared purpose. Has this been your experience?
Yes, so much so! One of the best parts of planning for the supper was thinking about how to bring together people we care about and admire, whom we thought would enjoy meeting each other. Everyone brought or gave something to make the night really special. In their own way of furthering the cause, some of our upstate neighbors donating goods to the Supper: Hops Petunia flowers and Kingston Wine Co..
Even though we did a lot of advance planning, when it came down to the wire, I was still setting up and my husband was building these beautiful tables right up until an hour before guests arrived. Suddenly, the baby needed fed, and the fire hadn’t been made and there were people arriving and each and every one jumped in and did something—our new friend Ambi made the fire and our friend Chris—a pro at live-fire cooking—got the Guylas going. Rosie, Anthony and Rebecca set the table, Julia cut the bread, Hillary poured wine, Teresa and Dana served dessert and everyone played with the kids and helped do dishes and just make it feel like it was both a beautiful event but also a big family meal, too.
How many meals did your Supper raise? Did you find guests were surprised by how much good they could do so little?
15,000 meals. We had 16 guests, including the kids—so that’s roughly 1,000 meals per person—pretty powerful! I was really touched by how many old friends from all walks of life (high school friends, college friends, even my first boss at my first job out of college) donated to our supper when I posted about it on Facebook, even though they weren’t the ones getting to attend and enjoy the meal. That really helped us reach our goal. And because FEED make’s it really easy to see how you’re helping ($1.10 equals 10 meals) you start seeing so quickly how much a tiny sacrifice in our world can yield a big gain in someone else’s.
Anything else you’d like to share about your Supper?
We put a lot into making our supper pretty—with flowers and string lights etc. and because that’s what we all do for a living and it’s fun for us—but that’s not what it’s really about. You could serve a big lasagna and green salad on paper plates and achieve the same goal. That’s what’s so amazing about this cause. I love that FEED has made it so clear how everyone can help, and I hope to see lots more friends—especially those with families—teaming up with people they love to do their own FEED Suppers, because it’s powerful when we realize that we can all do something.
To learn more about FEED Supper and sign up to host a meaningful dinner of your own, head over to the FEED Supper site.
Photography: Thuss + Farrell (@thussfarrel), Zio & Sons (@zioandsons) and Sarah Copeland (@edibleliving)
Prep for our feed supper started a week before, but things really got exciting the day before when my tiny helpers and I picked up the flowers and wine, and laid out the plates and started filling out name cards. (And dreaming about the fresh cider donuts that would fill up that cake-stand the next day!) // Saturday morning, the kids and I were up early decorating. My favorite thing about FEED Supper is how easy it is for everyone in the family to help—my daughter, Greta, really wanted to help with the pretty fragile things (yikes!), but we found the two best jobs for her were helping chop zucchini, and helping to hang the FEED SUPPER sign on the barn.
Here are all the ingredients laid out for the Guylas (we make ours vegetarian). Since it cooks over live fire for two to three hours, it’s great to have everything ready to go before you build the fire. Notice the stellar job on the zucchini chopping (thanks, Greta!), and thanks to Anthony who arrived early and cut all the onions so I wouldn’t cry. // The cucumber dish is great for entertaining—it is a traditional Hungarian salad that goes super well with the Guylas, and because you can slice the veggies the night before, it’s easy to make without breaking a sweat when guests arrive.
Whenever we cook on the live fire, we change the garden bench into a bar and serving area because it sits right by the fire. Here’s Maytas, our baby boy, is patiently keeping Anthony and I company while we set up. In the background, through that window, is Andras’s workshop where he was still building the tables we would sit around just an hour later! We work best under pressure.
The bar, all prettied up. We had fun bringing in some of our amazing, creative neighbors upstate to contribute. Hops Petunia donated the flowers, and Kingston Wine Co. contributed the wine and growlers of cider. Finding find local vendors, talents or friends to contribute food or wine is a great way to help make sure that all the funds raised go right to FEED, and it also really brings people together.
After Andras finished building the table, he and Anthony moved it onto the lawn just as the first guests were arriving. Thank goodness everyone wanted to help. Anthony and his cousin, Rosie and our friend Rebecca set the table beautifully. (They make things pretty for a living. // And here is our table setting, right before we had the pleasure of writing 15,000 meals in that blank spot. Our last donation came in right before dinner started!
By this point, the fire was just getting started, and people were hungry. Out came the cheese board—the best way to hold over a hungry crowd. // Local cheese and grapes (and those gorgeous flowers!) on one of Andras’ beautiful handmade cheese boards.
This is how we cook the Guylas (Hungarian for goulash), in a large bogracs (kettle): over embers, adding the onions and mushrooms and paprika paste, then tons and tons of paprika before adding all the other vegetables.