Ten years ago my dear friend, Karen Seljevold, read an article in The Forum which stressed the need for donations to our local food pantries as winter approached. Moved by the story and never one to shy away from a good cause, Karen reached out to her friends Linda Lamb and Jenni Monson and said, “We should do something.” The three ladies brainstormed ideas and the Pantry Party was born, with Gina Kraushaar joining the group as a fellow host a few years later.
The annual party is hosted in their homes, trading off between the friends from year to year. Dozens of women are invited to attend the party with the intention of coming together to enjoy food, wine and friendship, and all they ask in return is that each guest makes either a monetary or non-perishable donation to the Fargo Emergency Food Pantry.
I remember attending my first Pantry Party several years ago before they began accepting monetary donations, when the evening would end with several rooms packed to the hilt with bags and boxes of non-perishable food donations. The entire house was literally filled with food. There was no way you could leave a party like that without feeling warm and fuzzy, knowing that you’d joined others in doing good.
Karen estimates that there were several hundred pounds of food collected each year before they also began encouraging cash donations. The bulk of the gifts are now monetary and, while I miss the visual dynamic of all that food, I love knowing that the pantry can make our dollars stretch much further than our food donations. This year alone, Karen expects their cash contributions to exceed $1,800, in addition to dozens of bags of food.
“When you get an idea and have great people around you, it’s easy to do something like this,” Karen said. I’d argue the easy part, as planning a party for 30 to 50 women is never a simple task, but I understand the sentiment. Everyone has a good time at this party, including the hostesses.
Like any great party, there is no shortage of delicious food at this event, and this year the star of the appetizer buffet was Karen’s baked brie in puff pastry. When I asked her for the recipe she rolled her eyes and said, “This is way too simple for you, Sare. It’s a brick of brie cheese covered in raspberry jam and wrapped in puff pastry. Seriously, there’s nothing to it.” Yet, it was the dish everyone was talking about and returning to for more.
And hey, aren’t we all looking for that one dish that impresses everyone, with minimal effort on our part? I jazzed it up today by adding candied pecans and homemade cranberry sauce instead of jam (great way to use leftovers), but Karen’s version was just as satisfying. “Who knew cheese could taste this good?” exclaimed Dave Wallis, our Forum photographer.