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Dinners, Parties

[Quiche-in-progress this morning, March 2012.]

Whew. Today I have cooked. I am doing a two-fer this weekend, which means friends over for lunch and then more friends over for dinner. I will report back on Monday if I make it through to the other side. Today I worked at home to work, of course (and, ahem, do laundry), and to also do some preparations.

This also meant I spent the bulk of the day alone after a quick shopping trip and brief conversation with a girl in my building who is a runner who gets up to log her miles far earlier than me (as previously discussed over the washing machines). I don’t mind this; just this morning I was lamenting how full even the smallest of cities can feel, especially when you’re literally rubbing elbows with strangers every day on the bus. A bit of solitude and peace and quiet does wonders for my soul (and mental health).

Still, I wasn’t really alone all day, as I was kept company by the memories of previous lunches, brunches, dinner parties. As I chopped an onion, I remembered Emily showing me how to do it properly (of course I promptly forgot how to do it) the night of Father’s Day 2010 as we quickly prepared a simple yet delicious dinner with local fish, home grown greens, and my newest quinoa invention. This morning as I made my first quiche in years I remembered a night I had my aunt and cousins over for dinner in DC during one of those bitterly cold spells in mid-January in Washington. The heat in my building had crapped out a few days earlier, and I was glad I’d planned to make roasted red pepper tartlets so I had an excuse to turn on the oven. I don’t recall what I made for dessert (maybe cranberry upside down cakes) but I do remember making a pot of barley-mushroom soup to go with the tarts, and I’m sure there was a spinach salad with almonds and clementines, a staple of those days. Also that it was so cold and I was very grateful the boiler had been re-lit and my radiator clanking away by the time they were sitting ’round my beloved oak table.

Sometimes I think I’m better served to cook rather than to write about it; sure, I can DIY and tell you about it as good as the next guy but what’s most important to me is the actual doing. I’ve never worked in a restaurant and I’m sure it is a frenzy and lots of work and so much more than I can even imagine, but then again I don’t always mind frenzy and I definitely don’t mind working a lot/hard so …

But yes: today, I remembered. I remembered, as I pureed the cauliflower-leek soup, the dinner parties that expanded to include friends of friends or last-minute additions and how I’d add a bit more water and salt to the soup pot to stretch it (no one ever seemed to mind, or even to notice). I honestly had forgotten all about that until just now. I remembered how exciting it was to try new things: from Gourmet, from Vegetarian Times, from old cookbooks, and, increasingly, the Internet (williams-sonoma.com and epicurious.com were my reliables and still are) and how soon enough I used recipes – save for baking – more as inspiration points or guides and made stuff up as I went along (and depending on what I had on hand).

I think I cook similarly now, although my energy is not as high and I have less time than I did. Back then I worked a job that had me working shifts, either from 7-3, 10-6, or 4-12, which meant there was lots of time in the off-hours to experiment. Every month I’d have a four-day weekend after working 10 days straight and I’d be lying if I said most of those days off, at least when I was in town, weren’t spent in pursuit of some sort of food-related get-together. My sweet friends, who let me ply them with hand-rolled cannelloni (success!) and little cakes concocted from the semolina flour I grabbed last minute at the overpriced organic market in my neighborhood on the way back from my run because I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough food (Jessie, do you remember that one? A ate them all. We talked about scuba diving.) or yeasted sugar cake (delicious) with fruit and watermelon puddings (awful; will never live it down) or, more recently, my first roast chicken (Zuni way) and a vegan pre-Thanksgiving celebration my first season in San Francisco.

These days it may be simpler fare – by which I mean less time-consuming – but still, I hope, satisfactory and satisfying. While tomorrow’s meal may be composed of a lot of roasted vegetables, they’ll be rubbed in good olive oil and sea salt and garlic and all will be organic, darn it, even if I didn’t stay up late the night before putting it all together. Of course, I will still do this but since rain is forecast for the next few days I thought lots of delicious, comforting, warm things were in order. Anyway, the meal is really an excuse to socialize isn’t it?

So – quiet and introspective, yes; lonely, never.

Of course the trouble is that when you’re cooking all day and smelling the various good smells that come from combining cream with butter and greens with Parmesan, all you want to eat for lunch is cheese and chocolate (I ate a bowl of leftover cabbage-white bean soup). It’s veggie burgers, salad, and baked potatoes for dinner tonight and I will try to save my appetite for tomorrow’s feastings.

Happy weekend, all.

One Comment

  1. I’m impressed, and I’m confident that you pulled this off beautifully. Also–I really enjoyed your recent NPR article. It re-affirmed what my foodie friends and I think: a “high-end vanity kitchen” does not a cook make!!

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