The Designer Diner is, and is not, a place. We're not a business and there is no storefront, we make no products and sell no merchandise. The Diner IS the love, camaraderie and conversation that comes together whenever people sit down together and share a meal. That can happen in our home as easily as it can a restaurant, favorite outdoor area, church or even a hospital rehabilitation center. By request we have started to offer some services.
Kerry and I coined the name about 4 years ago as we tagged friends in Facebook posts as they joined us at our home for drinks, dinner and the occasional fire pit. The diner began to represent our desire to connect to people ourselves and to help people connect to each other. Sometimes our guests know each other, other times it's people we just think will enjoy great conversation.
So in the end, the Diner is as much about connection as it is about food. But when it comes to food we have very few limits. Whether the Diner is serving the meal or whether we are enjoying the fruits of other hands everything is on the table so to speak. We love my families traditional Southern cuisine all the way to the exotic dim sum of the Cantonese. From a roadside diner, local hole in the wall or taco truck to the 5 stars of Heirloom.
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I'm often asked 'Where did your love of food begin?" or "When did you start cooking?". It began with the lovely lady to the left: my mother... although a bit indirectly.
My mother was the family chef. She cooked delicious family meals, and like any good Mom, she forced me to eat my veggies and try yucky stuff (for a kid) like liver and onions. But while Mom's efforts in the kitchen sprang from love and were filled with love... she did not love to cook.
Mother was also a full time school teacher and I believe I was about 11 and home from school, while mom was in the still at work doing the late evening chore of parent teacher conferences. Dad made the suggestion that we have dinner ready for her when she got home, so we made spaghetti. It was ground beef, a box of noodles, a jar of sauce and a can of parmesan cheese, we were far from gourmet here.
However, the effect on Mom was dramatic. The relief she felt when she got home seeing that her work was done for the day was palpable. More impactful I believe was that it was evidence that we actively thought about her needs and then took action to show our love by meeting them. That was the night when I learned the power of food... it has a visceral way to show people we care.
I think there are thousands of example of this every day in the world, but this was my eureka moment and it stuck.
Kerry and I had our first date at the sushi restaurant My Bento, so from our first meeting food was a centerpiece of our relationship. We cooked meals for each other as we discovered who we were individually and as a couple. He still makes the best crab cakes I've ever had (there is this jalapeno ginger dressing he puts on them and ugh... the big chunks of crab meat!).
It was over meals that Kerry and I let our friends know about our relationship and it was how we continued to bond after introductions were made. The two of us are both generous and frugal at the same time. We are wise with our money so that we can be generous with those in our lives. This played out by us cooking almost exclusively at home and inviting folks to join us around the table. When we did eat out it was for a special occasion at a restaurant that offered a unique experience or to gather with friends who had already planned a dinner out.
Once we knew things were serious between us we began exploring the cuisines of our cultural heritages. Kerry is half Puerto Rican and my roots run to the deep south. For months we tried our hands at authentic foods from our pasts. Together we tackled the traditional Puerto Rican pasteles; similar to a tamale but wrappen in banana leaves with a dough made from different root vegetables. We honored my grandmother by using her old recipe book to recreate her long lost tea cake recipe. My Dad says they are just the same and I think she would be very proud