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Harvest Meal Success; Me: Five Years From Then… And Now

I did not sleep well Tuesday night at all. We had the first annual Harvest Meal or, as the KCAA was touting it, Peninsula Food & Chef Showoff, and it was a raging success. Of course lots of little things did not go perfectly.. and yet close to 400 people were fed! Not just fed… nourished and filled with foods of the highest caliber that Kitsap has ever seen. Our chefs truly did show off our local foods and every dish was beautiful and delicious. I was exhausted after that last very hectic week and 2 full days of cooking, yet I could not sleep for the adrenaline coursing through me. Because of my past career I am a recovering adrenaline “junky” and my brain ‘chatters’ after even the smallest adrenaline dump. A little history…

Five years ago this week I was not sleeping well. I had dispatched for King County Sheriff’s Office since 1990 and for some reason I reacted to the incident that occurred that night far differently than I had reacted to anything before. It affected me emotionally. Two deputies, who also happened to be brothers, ended up fighting for their lives and shooting the ‘bad guy’ at the end of the battle. This was certainly not my first shooting, and not even my last, and yet I could not shake the fact that those guys were my friends; I had known the elder brother nearly my entire career and had even been in his wedding several years prior. I met the younger brother at that wedding and soon after he began working with us. I cared about all of ‘my’ deputies and it was my job to keep them ‘safe’. Thankfully everyone went home to their families that night, which makes it a good night, but I had major amounts of adrenaline pumping through my body. It took me longer than usual to work through it, partly because I was unable to go to the department debriefing; I was on vacation in New York City with Mark and my family. (Sidebar: Mark and I got to visit the NYPD Communications Center, which is the largest in the world! It was an amazing experience and I got to speak to some of the dispatchers who were there for 9/11/2001.)

Due to a combination of my reaction to this event and the typical and complete lack of support from our ‘management’, about a month later I was sitting in the office of one of our department shrinks talking about the incident. I was saying that I had decided that I needed to move out of that career within the next year and I had no idea what that would mean for me. My trip to NYC and the conversations I had with those dispatchers helped me to feel even more confident in my decision. I was an excellent dispatcher and I knew that allowing myself to feel emotions meant that I was not going to be as good at my job. That was not acceptable to me, even if I was still ‘good enough’ at it, it was not good enough for me. I wanted to feel emotions again and not feel guilty about it. I wanted to feel ‘human’ and that meant I needed to change my career.

The counselor asked me where I saw myself in five years. I had no idea! I knew I would not be there and the thought of not being surrounded by my police family was so foreign and scary that I could not see past it. If she had said to me: “Monica, five years from now you will own a restaurant with your husband and you will be organizing the menu and chefs for a harvest meal for 400 people”, I would have thought she was CRAZY! No one could have seen that scenario coming, especially not me. And yet, here I am! I did not get here by thinking of all the reasons why I could not, should not, or would not be able to do such a thing. I got here because every time I had an idea that felt really good, I said WHY CAN’T WE?? And really, it was a rhetorical question. I LOVED putting that meal together and I am so proud of all that we did! No wonder I couldn’t sleep!

Three weeks before the big dinner event I was asked by Jim Freeman of the KCAA to organize the menu and chefs. Yes, I had a fleeting thought of “What the heck?? In three weeks?? YIKES!” I let that thought go and again thought “Why Not!” I mainly asked chefs and professional cooks that I knew I could count on to be reliable AND cook amazing food. They did not let me down! Instead of a recipe this week I am going to list every chef, their restaurants with links to their web sites and the dishes that they prepared for the dinner. I hope that you go visit them all as soon as you can. These are places that I love to eat at, and since you have to wait a year for the next harvest meal, you can tickle your palate with the great food they have in their restaurants. Tell them I sent you, I want the to know how much I appreciate them! And then come in and tell me what you had, you know I love to hear about great food. You can click on the harvest meal link above to see what farmers/growers provided us with our fabulous ingredients for the meal. I hope you got to have some of the food and if you missed it, you really missed something special. Make sure to get there next year!

By the way I am able to see a bit further into the future than I used to. I don’t know exactly what it will look like in five years, but I have a pretty good idea, and while I don’t want to spoil the future for you, I can tell you that it is going to taste really good!

Thank you to our friends:

*Kay Lee Jung, (no restaurant yet) Port Orchard: Korean Vegetable Soup

*Theresa Chiddick, Island Jamz, Keyport: Trinidadian Curried Goat

*Thad Lyman, Brix 25, Gig Harbor: French Cassoulet

*Jeff McLelland, Harbour Pub & Pegasus Coffee House, BI: Fabulous Roasted Chicken and a Zucchini Gratin

*Marty Bracken & Stacy Grega, Agate Pass Cafe, Suquamish: Roasted Pork; Pickled Red Onions; & Creamy Polenta w/Rosemary & Fresh Corn

*Shelly Lewis, Cosmo’s Deli, Port Orchard: Italian Baked Pasta with Pork Loin & Fromage Blanc

*Chris Plemmons and assistants from Olympic College and Two Snooty Chefs, Bremerton: Spanish Hams in Hay; NW style Fresh Veggie Salad & Dressing

*Richard Kost & Cynthia Jeffries-Cyr, CJ’s Evergreen General Store, Bremerton: Amuses Bouche of Grilled Clams & Oysters; Harvest Deviled Eggs; Moroccan Goat Tajine; Goan Curry Vegetable Samosas w/Peach Chutney (vegan); NW Roasted Beets & Vegetable Salad; German Style Potato Salad

*Lowell Yoxsimer, Hi-Lo’s 15th Street Cafe, Bremerton: Desserts featuring Washington Apples & Peaches

And of course!
*Monica Downen, Mark Downen & Leslie Chamberlain, Monica’s Waterfront Bakery & Cafe, Silverdale: Mexican style Pork Chili Verde; Italian style Farro Salad; Dinner Rolls