International spots offer alternatives to turkey.
People who love to cook are, by nature, a convivial bunch. As evidenced by a recent first-of-its-kind "cookover" in Washington County, they're also not averse to traveling hundreds of miles to spend time in the kitchen with friends -- even those they previously knew only through the computer.
This past weekend, Karen Radu hosted eight members of BakeSpace.com, an online food-oriented community created by and for people who enjoy baking and cooking, in her Nottingham home. They came from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey, and three brought their significant others along with gift baskets filled with goodies from their home towns and recipes to swap. Their host, meanwhile, greeted the girls with a giant sign and handmade aprons.
"I love to cook and entertain, so I put the invitation out to see what would happen," explains Mrs. Radu, who joined the group last year and has since posted 77 recipes.
She started planning the event in April, after meeting one of BakeSpace's members at a shopping mall in Richmond on a trip home from North Carolina. "We're constantly on line talking about our day, and what's going on with the family."
Friday night's welcoming dinner was themed Italian, with Mrs. Radu doing all the cooking. But everyone pitched in to prepare Saturday's late-afternoon barbecue (roasted boneless prime rib, rotisserie chicken, baked beans, pasta salad) using recipes from BakeSpace. The sweet finale was a three-tiered cake covered in fondant and studded with avatars of each member DD Pierce from Indianapolis made from gum paste.
It might seem scary, or crazy, to invite perfect strangers into your home. But members had so much fun, Mrs. Radu says, that two stayed over on Saturday night instead of going back to their hotel.
"They were just a delight," she says. "It was like we'd known each other for years and were having a family reunion." She laughs. "I'm sure we'll do it again."
Gretchen McKay can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1419.