Sunday, July 23, 2006
Are You Being Served?
Ahh...Shabbos. Ahh...Yom Tov. A time for eating, and eating, and eating; a time to be with family and friends.
Now, my husband and I don't do anything in a small way -- we are generous with others. We treat company like kings and queens, preparing a royal banquet for guests, whether they be family or friends.
Perhaps the deterrent by us is often that: 1} I try new recipes out on guests; thus, they become my guinea pigs, so to speak, and 2} I am a poor judge of quantity.
I've never been a good judge of proportions, so I always say to my husband when he or I plan menus: "Do you think that will be enough? Maybe we should make more!" He always looks at me like I'm crazy, and says that the quantity we've planned for is more than enough and if we make even more, we'll be dealing with leftovers galore.
You know what? Usually he's right...like always.
Let me tell you how we do things for a typical Shabbos lunch meal when there are guests...just because most of you will probably never have the privilege of having a meal at our table, although you ARE invited to do so.
Let me say, though, that we're not preparing gourmet-type dishes that need a lot of "patchke-ing"; we are preparing simple dishes, but a variety.
First there's fish -- one or two kinds; there's eggplant and chumus; pickles and olives and maybe marinated peppers; there is a standard Caesar salad we make that's a big hit, and maybe two other salads; there's rice or potatoes or kugel, or sometimes two or all three; there's a chicken dish or two, a meat dish, perhaps meatballs or roast beef; there's maybe a veggie side dish. Dessert is usually a fresh fruit platter, a cake, smaller nosh, and tea/coffee.
A lot of work, yes, but seeing guests enjoy the meal and having them feel relaxed as guests of ours is the reward. We know that we are not doing anything special in order to impress guests; we are just being ourselves.
Part of the food preparation is the presentation -- something I LOVE to do. I pull out several of the glass and serving dishes and trays and serving utensils I received for hostess or shower or engagement gifts; I arrange the food in a lovely way; I dress up the table with the simplest white napkins (paper) and cobalt-blue glasses and our plates that pick up those colors. It is simple, but elegant. Certainly nothing for the pages of Epicure or Gourmet magazines.
Yes, I love to host, and I also enjoy going as a guest to other homes -- it's interesting to observe how people do things in their homes. Some exceed what we do, both in quantity and presentation; others come nowhere close to us, and could stand to take classes in Culinary Class 101. The spectrum is wide and varied.
Based on observation, I learn things too -- what to do, what not to do. I get ideas for recipes, I get ideas for display, I get ideas for what conversation topics work well and don't work well at a table.
Of course we're not all cut from the same cloth -- or in culinary terms, perhaps I should say, we don't all wear the same style apron -- so it can make a meal memorable for a good reason or for a bad one. But I have learned at least one important thing:
"A meal always tastes better in the company of family and friends" IS A FALLACY!