Monday, May 4, 2015

Community and Derby Day

The neighborhood in which I live is awesome for many reasons. One of those reasons is the annual gatherings that different people host. For example, in the winter we have Christmukkah and Super Bowl parties. In the Fall, we have cupcakes on the first day of school (mimosas on the first morning after the kids get on the bus). And in the spring we have Derby Day.

Derby Day is basically a block party with a theme. We close down part of our street (with permission from the HOA, of course) and the kids like to ride their bikes around in the street while we set up. There is always great food! This year, I made the traditional Hot Brown sandwiches, but miniaturized. I also made a lime pie (I would call it "key lime", but that would be misleading, as I used plain old, regular limes). But I love that everyone comes together and contributes. It's the first big party after winter, and everyone is ready to come out and enjoy the weather. This year we had beautiful, clear skies, so we really lucked out. Previous years we have not been so lucky, but we won't dwell on that!

Hot Browns are a tradition at the Kentucky Derby and were created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. They are sandwiches with turkey, tomato, bacon and a cheese sauce, which puts them over the top and just messy enough to be fun. Traditionally served open-faced, I found a mini version that is better for eating at a block party. Rachel Ray supplied the recipe, which appears in the May edition of Every Day with Rachel Ray (which isn't available on-line yet).

And (key) lime pie, just because I like it. I'm not sure if it is a Kentucky Derby tradition, but it should be! For the recipe, click here. Bon Appetit claims it's their best Key Lime Pie recipe, and from the rave reviews I got at the party, I would have to agree. It's really an easy recipe to make as well (and I'm not much of a pie maker).

 More food photos from the day:

Wings, of course!

Loved the horsey-themed cupcakes!

 Mint juleps, because it's tradition, not because they are particularly tasty (at least to me).

Ham and biscuits, alongside the  not-so-traditional, but very popular taquitos (Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, so it's all good!).

 But almost as important as the food is the sense of community that these types of gatherings develop. In an age where people are feeling more and more disconnected (or think that Facebook is just as good as in-person relationships) with their neighbors, this type of gathering seems more of an exception than the rule anymore. People who join us from outside the neighborhood are surprised that this kind of thing happens at all, but it says a lot about the type of people that seem to be attracted to our neighborhood, because these types of gatherings happen all the time. I also think part of it has to do with all the sidewalks and front porches, where people regularly see each other, invite folks to "set a while" and you wave "hello" to people on the street, whether you actually know them or not.

I am so grateful that our kids are able to experience the kind of childhood I had -- spending hours outside, unstructured and with limited adult supervision (glances from the porch or the kitchen window, mostly) to allow them to develop their independence and decision-making skills without us parents hovering over them every second of the day. If I may say it, our neighborhood is like a latter day Mayberry RFD. We wouldn't want to live anywhere else!