What Happened to the Dinner Party?

Oct 5, 2011 | Uncategorized

I love to browse cookbooks and magazines about cooking.  I subscribe to Cooks Illustrated and and even watch the Food Network at the gym.  (OK, I did that three times but it sounds good)  I imagine the wonderful dinner parties I will have.  In the meantime I eat leftover pizza, lean Cuisine or a frozen dish from Trader Joe’s

But I love to cook and entertain.  But no one seems to entertain anymore.  I don’t know if it is geographic and that people in the Northwest just don’t invite each other over for dinner or just the kind of friends I meet.   As I sit here in my bathrobe in the middle of the night I think of the dinner parties I might have.

At one time I committed to one dinner party a month.  I invited a young couple fro random reasons I can’t remember.  I’m not sure what the menu was but there was that fantastic dessert.  I don’t remember the dessert either but I do know that it had lots of whip cream which I had flavored with cinnamon.  My guest was allergic to cinnamon and almost went into cardiac arrest.  Cinnamon!  Who would have thought that it could be lethal.  After assurances that he did not need emergency medical help, the couple hastily grabbed their coats and were out the door.  Not an auspicious start to my weekly dinner parties.  That was three or four years ago and I have not resumed the practice.  But I might.

There are the holiday dinners.  I now get Christmas dinner and last year I also got Thanksgiving and Easter brunch.  My immediate family is my daughter, son-in-law, grandson and two other grandmas.  There is no extended family and  there are no grandfathers.  So I import family.  Each year I find someone who either has no family or has disowned the family for the time being.  It is always good to add new folks to the mix as it changes the dynamics.

I love the family holiday dinners but the menu is pretty much fixed.   One must not deviate from Turkey for Thanksgiving, roast beef for Christmas and ham for Easter.  One year I announced that I would be preparing seafood newberg for Christmas dinner.  I almost had a boycott.  Roast Beast is the only thing you can have for Christmas dinner.   I read and I studied and I determined it would be the best roast beef ever.  Each year I determine it will be the best roast beef ever.  Now when you only cook something once a year it is hard to remember what worked and what didn’t.  Taking notes would be a prudent thing to do.  I guess this Christmas I will do that.  Cook’s Illustrated still is my mainstay.  I can tell you all about the science of roast beef if you like.  No one else wants to hear it.  Basically the theory is a very low temperature for a very long time.  When you have gone through two bottles of wine and all the appetizers are gone and the guests are cranky, you turn up the oven to incinerator and will that thermometer to go above body temperature.  Works every time.

Then there is my pineapple upside down cake.  Again Cook’s Illustrated.  Real butter, fresh pineapple, an uneven number of egg whites and yolks and a professional grade mixer.  I added the mixer after the first year’s pineapple upside down brick. (Saved with lots of whip cream — no cinnamon)   The cake got better and better with the addition of the heavy duty mixer that only comes out twice a year.  So at my last party I happened upon a pineapple upside down cake at Costco.  It cost eight dollars!  I spent that on ingredients alone.   So I put the Costco cake on my fancy raised cake plate and passed it off as my own.  And the verdict?  All the guests who knew of my quest  praised me for finally perfecting the recipe.

So what’s next on my culinary adventure?  Maybe I could perfect recipes for a dinner party for one?



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