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AP photo/The State Journal-Register, David Spencer Mike Bradley finishes preparing the first appetizers for the evening featuring tail-on-shrimp with help from his wife, Jane (center) and Grace Nanavati at Nanavati’s home in Springfield. The occasion was an anniversary party for Grace and P.J. Nanavati. They are part of a group of four Springfield couples have been sharing home-cooked meals together for 20 years.
AP photo/The State Journal-Register, David Spencer Four couples gather on the porch of the Nanavati home for a portrait in Springfield: Kelly and Karen Grant Jr. (from left); Mike and Jane Bradley; Janet and Charles Crane; and P.J. and Grace Nanavati. The group said the dinners have woven their lives together and how they stay in touch.
Anyone who knows of a similar group in the Illinois Valley and would be willing to be interviewed, can call (815) 220-6934 or e-mail to email@example.com.
The Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Friendships can be forged over meals together, and that’s true for one tight-knit Springfield group that has enjoyed home-cooked dinners together for more than 20 years. “Our lives have been woven together. This is how we’ve stayed in touch,” said Karen Grant, who partakes in the dinners with her husband, Kelly Grant. Simply called “Gourmet Group,” the four couples meet about every three months, alternating homes. Cooking is done by two couples each time, and menus — even after all these years — are rarely repeated. “We get together whenever we all have time to get together,” Karen said. If one of the eight members can’t make it, the dinner is rescheduled. “We don’t want to sacrifice anyone,” said diner Grace Luttrell Nanavati. The friends lead busy lives. Karen is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener and National Garden Clubs flower show judge; Kelly is chairman of the board of Mel-O-Cream Donuts International. P.J. Nanavati is a radiologist and his wife Grace is a dancer and choreographer who owns Dance Arts Studio. Charles Crane is a retired certified registered nurse anesthetist; Janet Crane is a registered nurse. Mike Bradley is an OB/GYN doctor and Jane Bradley is a former history teacher and grandmother of four. It was a Thai cooking class in 1990 that brought the four couples together. Waiting for a table at Magic Kitchen on Peoria Road one night, several people in line expressed interest in taking a cooking class from Peng Jones, a woman who taught Thai cooking in her Springfield home. The class requirement was eight people. The four couples — some of whom knew each other — decided to join together for the class. “We took those classes once a month for 1½ years. We went so long, she ran out of recipes,” Karen recalled. When the teacher moved away from Springfield, Gourmet Group was formed. “We had so much fun; we didn’t want it to end. We said we would miss each other too much,” Karen said. So they decided to meet every few months. The first dinner was November 1992 at the Nanavati home. Dinners usually fall on the weekends and have a theme. The group has prepared and dined on cuisine from all over the world — Italian, Mexican, Greek, Spanish, Turkish, Indian, Peruvian, Moroccan, French, German and more. Other get-togethers have included a murder mystery (with costumes), a luau (with grass skirts), a New Orleans feast, Oktoberfest, a patio party, recipes from North Carolina’s Biltmore House and a Halloween party. Wine accompanies the meal. The most recent dinner was at the Nanavati home. It was a seafood feast and the dishes included seafood cocktail, Thai-inspired mussels, Creole shrimp and lobster bisque, spicy crab salad, mahi-mahi curry, fried plantains, grilled vegetables, basmati rice and mango-rum crème caramel. Menu ideas come from everywhere: restaurants visited while traveling, TV cooking shows, newspapers, magazines, websites, cookbooks, friends. Karen is the group’s historian. She stores all of the menus and recipes — more than 20 years of them — in three-ring binders. Sprinkled throughout are baby shower and wedding invitations, anniversary announcements, theater ticket stubs, birth announcements, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia from occasions the group has shared. Although the food is delicious, group members say the real benefit of dining together is the bonding. “We all have different interests, but we all love to get together,” Mike Bradley said. “We’ve had babies, showers, graduations, weddings and now grandchildren that we’ve shared. We’ve put our parents in nursing homes, we’ve lost our parents, we’ve had surgeries and funerals,” Karen said. “We’ve been through it all together.” “These meals have allowed me to extend my family,” Grace said. “They, too, are my family and there’s a glory in that.”
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