Farewell, Summer!

With chillier weather settling in and the days already starting to get shorter, it truly is time to bid summer farewell. The creeping in of fall always heralds busy times for Reader to Reader as mentors and students return and the online forum connecting them starts up in full force. This year has certainly been no exception, but more on that in the next post!

Before we get too far into the school year, I just wanted take a moment to reflect fondly on the zany, busy, and delicious summer we had. Staff and interns (a whopping 7!) engaged with youth through 4 programs, we gave away books and provided fun activities for families at 3 community events, and towards the end of summer we welcomed a new staff member. In between it all, our wonderful team of interns re-organized the office, sorted through donations, previewed books for potential addition to our mentoring program, and of course, tinkered in the kitchen.

Summer birthdays were abound–we celebrated seven, which were really just excuses to bake cool cakes and play around with flavor combinations. This summer’s selection of celebratory treats included a chocolate coffee buttercream cake, an Amaretti torte, an Earl Grey strawberry crepe cake, a mango cheesecake, and plum bread pudding. Our birthday gals and guys were certainly very pleased and this colorful assortment of cakes reflects the diversity of our taste buds!

We also had the pleasure of a weeklong visit from alumna mentor and kitchen experimenter extraordinaire Michelle Ngo (follow her foodventures here!). Laughter and fun food times are never far with Michelle around and her visit ensured that things didn’t get too quiet as we hit the lull between the end of our summer programs and the start of the academic (aka mentoring) year. Since Michelle and I are avid fans of British-style afternoon tea (clotted cream anyone?), we had decided awhile back that the next time we shared a kitchen, we would have to have a redux of the British-inspired afternoon tea we whipped up in March 2015. Our menu this time around included fruit scones, ploughman-style scone-wiches (in place of the finger sandwiches traditionally included in afternoon tea sets), a classic Victorian sponge, and an Earl Grey chocolate cake. All in all, a very satisfying spread indeed, and we all agreed that the standout ingredient was the sweet tomato and chilli chutney from English Provender that were slathered on the ploughman scone-wiches. The perfect combination of chunky, savory, and tangy sweet had us going back to the jar for more long after we polished off those scone-wiches… (In other words, go out and buy yourself a jar of this stuff. You won’t regret it!)

And what did we do when there weren’t birthdays to be celebrated or visitors to catch up with? Never ones to stay away from the kitchen for too long, we hosted our very own weekly dinners, bringing together staff, interns, and mentors who were in the area for the summer. From mac and cheese to okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancakes) to caprese risotto to a South American chicken corn stew, we were inspired by cuisines from all over the world. Tostada, taco, and pita-themed nights sent us scrambling around the kitchen to prepare a variety of toppings but the end results were always well worth the efforts.

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pita stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and falafel

And of course, our culinary adventures wouldn’t be complete without desserts. “Dessert goes in a separate stomach, right?” was frequently overheard at the office this summer… Decadent and rich, fruity and lightwe love it all. We had our share of frozen treats, from plain, good ol’ ice cream to fancier sundaes and bingsu (Korean shaved ice). Chilled desserts were certainly a favorite with the humidity of the Valley bearing down on us, but we definitely put our oven to work too. We filled the spaces in our bellies after dinners and between tasks with treats such as tiramisu, peach cobbler, lemon spongettes, Chinese-style strawberry sponge cake, raspberry Nutella tart, fruit tart, nectarine panna cotta, and baklava.

We lived up to the Eater to Eater moniker with great glee, and I think it’s safe to say that here at Reader to Reader, we not only supported our interns’ growth in literacy-related and community engagement skills but also in culinary skills. Although we won’t be in the kitchen quite as much now that our mentoring program is back up and running, this is definitely not the end of our kitchen camaraderie.

– Sylvia

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