I am no Martha Stewart, but I like to entertain. I also am not much of a cook, but I love to spend hours in the kitchen working on a meal. For the most part, none of our dinner parties have been disasters. This weekend may have been our first exception.
To be honest, it wasn’t a total disaster. I just violated some common sense rules of hosting. Like, stay within your comfort zone. We hosted a couple we only barely knew. They had invited us to dinner at their house in December and it took us three months to return the favor. We had a lovely time then. But because of holidays and illnesses, we just couldn’t synch our schedules until last weekend. The problem with hosting people you only barely know is that if disaster happens – like the food getting burned or the kitchen catching fire – you can’t really laugh it off because these new folks don’t know you well enough to understand that doing something stupid is just your nature. And so, they may end up talking about “the disastrous night at the Journeys” for years to come. Thus, it sometimes is best to plan dinners out until you know your guests are comfortable with any dinner disasters that may arise.
I began cooking early in the afternoon – browning diced pancetta and ground chuck, veal and pork (it needed to cook 45 minutes in order to form a crust) and then toasting and grinding my own juniper berries for Frank Stitt’s Bolognese, as published in his new book Bottega Favorita. I had made the dish before and it is fabulous. What I didn’t realize is that one of our guests grew up in an Italian household. I discovered this tidbit when he announced that there are only a few Italian restaurants where he will actually go eat because he grew up eating good Italian food. I should have remembered this from December, but I didn’t. His last name is SMITH, for crissake. So I violated another rule of entertaining – don’t prepare foods your guests are experts in eating. If you’re not from the South, don’t make Southern food for a Southerner; if you’re not from Italy, don’t make Italian food for an Italian.
Another rule I effectively violated was – don’t do something stupid. Like, say, dump the food you are about to serve your guests on the floor. I’m not sure if it was that there was almost no lip on those fabulous Z Gallerie dishes I got last year or the olive oil on the pasta, but the minute I picked up a plate in each hand, one teetered toward the hardwoods and its contents went splat on the floor. As I stood in amazement the second plate mysteriously wobbled and followed suit. I was left holding two plates with about three noodles left on each. Hearing my gasp, my husband ran into the kitchen and, like any dear husband, shot these photos.
Based on the wine glasses, you’d suspect I was blitzed. But I honestly wasn’t, and certainly not early in the evening when the dinner dumpage occurred. On a positive note, we served what was left of the pasta and talked until late into the night as their toddler slept in the bedroom and Truman quietly watched Sponge Bob in the other room until he, too, gently drifted off to sleep on the couch. I suppose we’ll see if the Smiths actually talk to us again. Until then, I’m going to stick to ordering pizza for our dinner guests.