Men cook up a Light Up Night tradition at Sweetwater

| Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 8:25 p.m.

Wayne Murphy was told his Moroccan Lamb Stew never would sell at Sweetwater Center for the Arts' annual Let the Men Cook event.

But Murphy, who has participated in the Sewickley Light Up Night event for 10 of its 15 years, said he thought diners would take a chance on the entree.

He was right.

The stew has been the first entree to run out the last two years at the celebration, which features dishes cooked and served by about a dozen volunteers from the community.

“I used to make seafood stew, which is just about the best thing I ever made, but it has to be served in a bowl and we had too many things to serve in bowls already,” he said. “And, it was listed as seafood soup and it didn't sell.”

So, he found a recipe for the stew, tweaked it and within about an hour and a half after the event began last year and the year before, the stew was gone.

Murphy the mayor of Edgeworth and a Sweetwater advisory board member, said he considers Let the Men Cook to be one of the most entertaining events during Light Up Night.

“You have Gary Chace and Don Morine at the counter yelling, ‘one order of beans and greens' or ‘two orders of Southwest chili,' and the other guys yelling, ‘What ‘ya say? Was that two orders of beans and greens?' Then, ‘No, one order,'” Murphy said.

Murphy said he began cooking when he was single, but just bachelor-type foods. When he and his wife, Mary, married 43 years ago, they began splitting the cooking duties. She did salads and desserts, and Murphy cooked the vegetables and main course.

When he retired from Eaton Corp. in 2003, he started cooking more at home and volunteering more in the community.

He said he likes cooking best when he's preparing a meal for a crowd, and that's one reason he loves participating in Let the Men Cook.

Last year, 200 meals were served, and Murphy said he has watched it get more popular.

Joel Swanson, event organizer, said last year's effort was the biggest in the sense that everything was “plated out” and raised $3,133, which was $804 more than in 2011.

Murphy said for some people, it's the start of their night. They park in St. James Church lot, stop at Sweetwater to eat and look at the Holiday Mart crafts — which the men also help to set up — then go on to other Light Up Night activities.

Meals can be packed up for diners to take home.

In addition to the lamb stew, other entrees this year may include beans and greens and pasta magic by Tony Sinatra; Southwestern chili, John English; turkey pot pie, John Harte; vegetarian Thai curry, Greg Kaminski; beef bourguignon, Will and Joel Swanson; bread pudding with hard sauce, George Merrick; and cheesecake, Will Swanson. The men donate a bottle of wine each.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406.

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