Mar 30, 201710:27 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
Dinner Parties and Me
My wife has invited some of her colleagues to our home for dinner tonight. She has requested tacos. In thinking about what I’d make, it occurred to me that I am not as stressed about the situation as I once would have been. It appears that while it has taken over 48 years, I have recently managed to learn a thing or two.
Because not that long ago, if we were hosting a dinner party, I’d have planned a huge menu and then driven myself crazy trying to pull it off. There is no way that “old” me, for example, would have settled for store-bought tortillas. At a minimum, I would have broken out the tortilla press, and during the entire time the guests were there, I’d have been pumping out handmade tortillas. I might even have rendered some lard to make fresh dough for tamales.
I’d have made multiple salsas, relishes and side dishes. There would have been at least three fillings for tacos, and an equal number of different tamales. One of each would be vegetarian, just in case.
An hour before the guests were supposed to arrive, I’d realize I’d forgotten to start a couple of things, and that some of the other dishes wouldn’t be done in time. I would be a wreck, and by the end of the evening, probably angry, mainly at myself.
I’m not sure if my dinner-party mania had more to do with a desperate desire to impress people with my cooking, or because I just really love to cook. Probably both. But what I have gradually realized is that most of the time people are not impressed by the half-drunk maniac who keeps apologizing for how long it’s taking to make the food, then continuing to cook after everyone else has started eating, and ultimately being self-critical about how everything turned out. That guy is also not enjoying the cooking so much as surviving it.
I’m not going to say that every dinner party (or lunch, for that matter) that I’ve hosted has turned out this way. Sometimes I’ve been sane and things have gone smoothly, but it’s a credit to their loyalty that those friends who have experienced this side of me are still my friends. Or closely related to me.
So this time, I’ve planned a bit better. I will buy very good tortillas, which as it happens are not expensive. I will also buy some salsa and make another. My wife and I will make beans, and a corn dish, and guacamole. (I will not insist on fresh corn on the cob, nor will I make a stock with the corn cobs after I have shucked and cut the kernels off). I will make some chicken in the slow cooker, and I will cook some skirt steak on the grill or under the broiler. Neither will involve more than about three or four ingredients, and neither will be something I’ve never made before but have always wanted to try. There will be rice from the rice-cooker.
I will actually, I hope, sit down with our guests and enjoy their company. At the end of the night, the kitchen will be dirty, but it will not be the sort of apocalyptic scene that greeted us in years past, when I managed to use each and every pot, pan and serving dish in my kitchen. And to be clear, I have a lot of pots, pans and serving dishes.
I will still be self-critical, and no doubt some things will go wrong, but I am pretty sure the food will be good, and I know I’ll enjoy the company.
God help me, I think I may actually be maturing.