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A local men's cooking group misses the connection of food

Liz Lerner

When Charlie Moeder first got involved with the Chatham Harwich Newcomers Club Men’s Cooking group, he volunteered to run the sign-up booth at the Newcomers general meeting.

“A chap walked up and said, “I’d love to join, my wife does very good cooking.” I said, hold up, this is the men do the cooking, if your wife does the cooking, that’s cheating,”

The whole point of the men’s cooking group—and the Chatham Harwich Newcomers Club in general—has been to get new Cape Codders together through common interests. Last winter Charlie invited me to one of the men’s cooking group get-togethers but then COVID hit so more recently he reminisced with me over the phone. Charlie says he’s not an especially advanced cook, but he loves doing it, and he’s worked his way up through the ranks to become a men’s cooking group leader.  

“We’re divided down into several groups of 8, 9, maybe 10 members per where we get together once a month to have a guy’s night out so to speak. Skill is not a requirement, enthusiasm is,” Charlie said.

What the groups cook varies a lot. One winter, Charlie remembers, his group tried to cook the cuisine of a different European country every time they got together.

“We had a German one month, we had French another, Italian another, UK for another, and that worked out fairly well, but it’s interesting we found that many of us, some of us knew the various European cuisines fairly well, others of us had no particular idea of what made it specific to a particular country.”

For instance, it turns out German cuisine features a lot of freshwater fish like trout and pike in addition to all those sausages and Charlie says most UK dishes are actually pretty good despite their bad reputation. Other times, Charlie’s group has cooked with a holiday theme.    

“I had an assignment of an appetizer one time and sure enough it was St. Patrick’s day and I decided to make deviled eggs with green food dye. The deviled eggs turned out great but the food dye made the coloring interesting and we’ll let it go at that.”

Of course these days, like most gatherings, men’s cooking group doesn’t look quite the same. Gone are the days of sitting down together to carefully prepared shrimp scampi or veal marsala. But Charlie’s group has managed to stay connected through trading recipes over email and like a lot of us, hosting the occasional zoom cocktail hour.

“We all sat there with a glass of wine or a frosty or soda water, whatever with a little bowl of munchies of some kind and just yackedy-yack for 45 minutes, and that lasted until zoom said your 40 minutes are up and we all turned into pumpkins.”

Charlie says his favorite place to get recipes is cooks.com, and of course, the ultimate compliment is when someone asks for one of the recipes for something he’s made.

“I had that happen with stuffed mushrooms one time, it takes oooh, maybe 45 minutes or so, and they are always well received.”

I checked out the stuffed mushroom recipe on cooks.com and it does look delicious. The mushrooms are filled with cracker crumbs, salt, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, and fresh parsley. And like Charlie, I’m looking forward to a day when I can make a batch to share with friends.

An avid locavore, Elspeth lives in Wellfleet and writes a blog about food. Elspeth is constantly exploring the Cape, Islands, and South Coast and all our farmer's markets to find out what's good, what's growing and what to do with it. Her Local Food Report airs Thursdays at 8:30 on Morning Edition and 5:45pm on All Things Considered, as well as Saturday mornings at 9:30.