When I tell my husband Eric that I have invited people over for dinner his first response is, “That sounds great.” But later he says, “I don’t know why you want to do this.” What caused the drastic change in the response? It is all a matter of the passage of time. We always have these grand ideas and I always want everything to be perfect. It springs from the way I was raised. My mom always wanted the house to be perfectly clean for company and the food fantastic. I inherited this desire for perfection and the nervousness that goes along with that impossible dream. It is this pre company ritual with all it’s cleaning, cooking, and re-cleaning that causes my husband to wonder if it is all worth it.
There are two more memorable dinner parties that come to mind. One was a while ago and to this day we have never repeated making chinese for company. We decided to have a few friends over. It began to grow however and by the time we were serving dinner, the count was up to 11 people. That may not seem like a lot of people but for the size of our small dining room and the amount of prep work we did for all the recipes it was a little overwhelming. We worked very hard trying to impress our friends with a delicious menu even having to enlist the help of my brother Caleb. The line-up included steamed dumplings, egg rolls, hot and sour soup, and not one but two different entrees. Garlicky ginger chicken or beef with cashews anyone? Thank goodness for our decision to purchase egg rolls from our local chinese restaurant and to our friend and fellow foodie Valerie for the homemade fortune cookies. These were both a hit as well. Yes, the meal turned out well and everyone enjoyed it. But we were so busy in the kitchen cooking up our masterpiece that we missed all of the pre-dinner conversation. It was a memorable event, however, and when I saw my friend Erica many months later she said she was still craving that hot and sour soup that Eric made.
The second dinner party problem was all together different. But the number of guests were the same. We invited 8 people but a guest had a plus one. This brought the total with my husband and I to 11. Maybe the whole problem is in that number! I thought I had a full proof dinner planned, Sicilian meatloaf, mashed potatoes, salad and steamed vegetables. However after I had set the oven to preheat and realized it had been on for over a half an hour and still wasn’t hot I panicked. Thankfully a wonderful friend who lived nearby agreed to cook it for me in her oven. Of course things like that are beyond your control but it did teach me a few lessons. Sometimes simpler IS better. Sometimes smaller IS better. Things will go wrong and it is best to roll with the punches. And finally always have a plan.
So here is my plan. It has evolved over time due to these cooking lessons and I stray from it at times. But for the most part: The most I invite now at one time to my house is 6, that is a total of 8 including my husband and I. I have found though, that for the size of our house a total of six is preferable. Of course there are exceptions to this rule especially when it comes to family. I also like to make something that takes far less prep time then cook time. If anyone offers to bring something I take them up on it. Especially when they offer to make a salad (which I love but hate to make for some reason) or bring dessert. This gives your guest a chance to show off their culinary skills as well. I love making chinese at home but I think having a simple menu for company is better. This one will shine at any dinner table large or small. For company I like to make roast chicken with a lemon, herb, and garlic rub; potatoes cooked in cream, and steamed broccoli. And always have a crusty loaf of Italian bread on hand to mop up any delicious cream sauce. Bon appetit! Happy and stress free cooking to you!