Have you ever agreed to do something, gotten started, and then thought: “What have I gotten myself into?” Sometimes, I feel like that’s the story of my life.
The most recent installment of “What the $%*# am I doing?!” starred my husband, Anthony, and me as we navigated the process of throwing a fundraiser for 150 people to benefit Central Outreach & Advocacy Center, the organization where I work.
Central OAC is special organization; it’s truly one of the good ones. With a tiny staff of four and a corps of highly dedicated volunteers, Central OAC served the needs of nearly 10,000 people last year. By providing emergency support to keep struggling families in housing, we ensured that they (and their children) wouldn’t have to spend the night on concrete and cardboard. For those seeking a way out of homelessness, we walked compassionately alongside them on that journey, offering programs and services to help them get back on their feet.
There is no doubt that this organization is a great cause, but somewhere between putting down the security deposit (out of our small savings account) and shaping the 150th homemade slider roll, I just couldn’t wrap my head around what we had agreed to do.
In preparation for this fundraiser, Anthony and I had to secure a space, find bands willing to play for free, build a website capable of selling tickets and tracking RSVPs, and create flyers and promotional materials. Once we’d chosen our location—Monday Night Brewing, one of Atlanta’s coolest and most delicious breweries—we started bugging our friends for help planning, spreading the word, and selling tickets.
And then we cooked. Oh, did we cook.
Anthony and I roasted and pulled 20 pounds of chicken, simmered it in barbeque sauce made from scratch, and made 150 tiny slider rolls to go with it. We shaped 450 tiny meatballs (in retrospect, a melon baller would have been helpful!) and cooked them in gallons of homemade sauce. Our food processor was a godsend, helping us whip up quarts of hummus and tzatziki. We baked 10 huge baguettes, half destined for crostini and the other half for slicing and serving. We also made over 300 cookies and 75 carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
The reinforcements—in the form of my incredible Mom—arrived on Saturday afternoon before our Sunday event. With her expert help, we were able to boil, peel, cut, and fill 140 deviled eggs; cook, fry, and spice 3 pounds of chickpeas; and make cups upon cups of pimento cheese. While Mom and I battled eggshells, Anthony single-handedly made 8 skillet-sized Spanish tortillas.
The piece de resistance was that Kerrygold donated wheels of their incredible cheese to our cause. We cannot say it enough: the people at Kerrygold are simply amazing, and their products are as high-quality as their staff. Thanks to them, we were able to assemble stunning boards of creamy Cheddar Aged with Irish Whiskey, tangy Dubliner (classic and with Irish Stout!), and earthy Cashel Blue. We even used Kerrygold’s Skellig Sweet Cheddar to make the pimento cheese, and—let me tell you—I’ll never use anything else.
With the incomparable Anthony Damelio and the bionic Pam Anderson at my side, the day of the event arrived, and we had time to spare. Mom and I were able to go for a run, do all the dishes, and make my bed. While I was in the shower, Mom even managed to vacuum my apartment.
Our event, which we called “Cheers for Change! Supporting Sustainable Solutions to Homelessness,” was a totally success. The weather was gorgeous, the people were plentiful, the beer was delicious, and the band was amazing. Folks mingled, drank, laughed, played corn hole, learned about the work of Central OAC, and generally had a great time. In fact, I am already getting inquiries about a date for next year’s event!
The best part of our gathering, besides the money and awareness we raised for a great cause, was the fact that people actually ate! I’ve attended so many parties where people insipidly pick at the food or ignore it altogether. Not so here! Folks piled their plates high and deep, and came back for seconds and thirds. I saw one guy leave the food table with a plate full of nothing but Kerrygold cheese. He was walking proud, head held high with not one ounce of shame that he was in possession of approximately two pounds of cheese. These are the kind of people I like to party with!
And so it is with hearts full of gratitude that Anthony and I would like to thank all those who helped make this event possible: the Board, staff, volunteers, and supporters of Central Outreach & Advocacy Center, as well as two amazing companies, Monday Night Brewing and Kerrygold. Your support continues to help us realize our mission of helping thousands of men, women, and children get off the streets and into meaningful jobs and safe housing. To my mind, little else could be so important.
Here’s the recipe for the pimento cheese! Enjoy!
The Best Pimento Cheese
There are several ways to roast peppers. If you have a gas stove, set each whole pepper on the burner grate directly over the flame, turning them as their skin blisters. Place the peppers in a bowl, cover it, and allow them to steam. When they are cool enough to handle, rub off the skin and then stem and seed them. We have an electric stove, so we stemmed and seeded the peppers, cut them in half, and placed them cut-side down on a baking sheet under the broiler until the skin was black and blistered. Although we love the sweetness, complexity, and crunch of home-roasted peppers, you can always buy roasted red peppers.
Makes a generous quart
2 large red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded, and cut into small dice
1 pound aged cheddar cheese (we used Kerrygold’s Skellig), grated
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup pimento-stuffed olives, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
Salt to taste and a generous 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Big pinch cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and serve with crackers or make a sandwich. (Pimento cheese can be covered and refrigerated for at least a week.)