Well, actually, it turned out to be dinner for 25 (plus one kid with swine flu quarantined in her room with Ramen noodles).
The day of preparation went as planned—except that Wegmans did not have any decent organic grapes. I got the usual look, and a few comments, from people as I pushed my cart through the supermarket—a cross between shock that someone can fill a cart so full, and curiosity as to what could possibly be occurring in my household to warrant buying so much stuff. Granted, I did have eight boxes of drinking glasses, since I never have enough and I want to avoid buying plastic cups.
By lunchtime I made an executive decision that I was going to make punch. I don’t think people make punch enough these days. My decision was based partly on the fact that I had a half a container of grape juice taking up too much space in the fridge. I decided to try making ice cubes out of lemonade, with a single leaf of lemon verbena frozen inside. The lemon verbena was glorious in the garden—but I hadn’t used any all year, and since there actually was snow this morning, it was only a matter of days before it was dead and gone. I don’t have ice-cube trays, so I filled up my tiny muffin tin with lemonade and lemon verbena and put it in the freezer.
By 4:00 the house was sufficiently straightened up and I was ready to start cooking and making the final preparations. Certain kids who were supposed to be reporting for duty to help were screaming from the basement while playing Wii Bowling. I had just put the cut and oiled potatoes into the oven to begin roasting when, at 4:20, the birthday girl (my mother) arrived. I thought for sure that, for a change, she wouldn’t arrive early because someone was bringing her who knew I needed the full prep time allotted—but no. In fact, according to her companion, she had been ready to leave her house (10 minutes away from mine) at 1:00.
So I quickly put out all the drinks (nonalcoholic, of course): Sparkling water, sparkling cider, lemonade, and punch made from grape juice, sparkling water, lemonade with lemon verbena ice cubes, and some cranberry goji berry juice. I had worried that the lemon verbena leaves would turn brown when they were frozen, but they didn’t. It was good punch!
For appetizers I put out olives, smoked almonds, Brie, Petit Basque cheese, and sliced baguette. By 4:50 (remember, the party was supposed to start at 5:00), everyone had arrived except my brother—who is usually the last to arrive. By the time he and his family arrived at 5:30, all the drinks were gone and dinner was ready.
By the time half the family was through the buffet line, I had the distinct panic that there wasn’t going to be enough food. I even looked in my freezer to see if I had anything I could whip up quickly. Here is what was eaten: 18 steaks, 4.09 pounds of AMAZING wild-caught king salmon dripped with a chopped parsley, garlic, salt, and olive oil mixture, 5 pounds of multiple varieties of potatoes that were roasted with olive oil and butter (yum!), 6 bags of frozen green beans with 1 cup of toasted almonds, two full serving bowls of salad, and four baguettes of bread (two white, two whole grain) with organic pasture butter. Everything was gone except for a few green beans, a small bit of salad, and two steaks.
When everyone was seated at the table, eating and talking, I had my moment (with my feet up under the table) where I could sit back and just enjoy watching my family having a good time together. My mother was thrilled, and loved everything. The dining room was perfectly lit with low lighting and candles. Mark, a longtime friend of the family and a brilliant floral arranger, had made incredible, bountiful table arrangements. I was very happy that we all had this time together at the same table.
Dessert was her two favorites: hickory nut cake and lemon pound cake. There was enough for everyone. Everybody was happy and it all worked out.
When I took the girls up to bed (and myself, too), some of the older kids were still downstairs laughing and hanging out—without any alcohol! And when I woke up the next morning, all the dishes were done.
All in all, a great success. Next up at this same table: Christmas dinner. But I’m not going to think about that…at least until after Thanksgiving.
LOL. My Dad was always ready and waiting long before the actual event. One time in high school I was taking the bus to NYC to meet him at my Uncle’s apartment (I need to stay for class in the afternoon on Friday and he preferred to go in earlier) he was actually down in the subway station waiting for me before I was even scheduled to leave the Lehigh Valley (like 2 hours early)…when I missed the bus I’d been planning to take my Uncle had to go fetch him. Glad your Mum and everyone had a great time and the kitchen elves even did the dishes!
What wonderful thoughtful person did all the dishes, I wonder????
Also, I got 4 strikes in a row and beat Tony at Wii bowling for the first time, hence the shouts of joy.
By the way, I checked with the doctor that morning and he said it was ok to have the party as long as Eve stayed in her room all day. So far no one else who was there has come down with it (other than Lucia, her sister). Friday there is going to be a story on rodale.com about what to do regarding quarantining and keeping family and guests safe from the flu….
Maya, you’re my favorite little kitchen elf!
A.k.a. dish fairy.
Ran into your elf this morning in front of my house!
Had to read the article when I saw it on the Rodale site (where I was trying to find your mailing address for an old-school congrats card slogging your way). Especially love the beverage ideas!
I hope the elf was appropriately assisted by the Wii loser…;)
Would have loved to see photos of the table and the buffet.
sounds so delicious, wonderful and warm, just how families should be.
now get the rest you deserve and feel better very soon!