It is a truth universally acknowledged that I am no Nigella Lawson – except perhaps in breast size. The first time I cooked for a boyfriend many moons ago, I remember having to call my mother in Qld from remote northwest WA to find out how to roast a roast. Seemingly, my earnestness was much more agreeable than my actual culinary talent but my boyfriend at the time found my efforts quite endearing all the same.
Needless to say I am not known for hosting dinner parties. I am a regular guest at such convivial gatherings – even though I inevitably bring sex, religion and politics into the conversation wherever possible. All of this makes the fact that I hosted my first-ever dinner party last Friday all the more surprising.
A group of my girlfriends have started an ad-hoc, very irregular (the last one was December) series of dinner parties and it was my turn next. In the weeks leading up to the event I tried a number of different recipes on my long-suffering housemate to affect a perfect menu on the night. This is a feat in and of itself given my usual night-time meal is chicken and salad. This is because it is easy (although I did recently add in baked beetroot to the mix – after calling my father to find out how to bake it), because I like it, and because I can.
My most recent long-term relationship was with an Irishman who only ate meat and potatoes – so for a number of years my diet consisted of truckloads of gluten-laden pastas and other creamy caloried-concoctions. Not only did my waistline expand to historic proportions but I also developed an intolerance to high GI goods – or as my dietician calls it “an allergy to junk food”. Which you have to admit, is probably a very good thing.
Alas, none of the test cases during my potential menu experimentation really worked. Or so I could gather as my housemate wrinkled up her nose with each “delicious” spoonful while kindly saying: “Mmm, perhaps not your best work, love.” This is from a woman who can bake a cake so delicious it brings tears to your eyes. There are many reasons she is my housemate and good friend, and this is a very important one.
Not to be defeated, some lateral thinking resulted in a sushi platter (bought six hours early) for entree; a smoked ocean trout soba noodle salady thing for main; and lime mini sponges (baked by my housemate) for dessert which was always destined to be the hero of the night.
In hindsight, a few valuable lessons were learned on the night:
- Do not buy sushi six hours before you going to serve it – even if you put it in the fridge – because the rice goes like concrete and you have drown it in soy sauce to loosen the grains;
- Ask your guests if they like smoked ocean trout before you decide to serve them smoked ocean trout for dinner;
- Love your housemate even more for serving a dessert so scrumptious I thought that some of the guests were going to cry out in pure ecstasy;
- Drink lots of wine so that no one remembers the food the next day; and
- Host an interpretative dance-off, which you win for your rendition of All of You by Evanescence, and therefore restore some of your dignity.
The next morning, one of our guests had thoughtfully scored each dish on our chalkboard menu board. The solidified sushi got 8 out of 10; the smoked ocean trout got 9; and the dessert was given a perfect 10 -“ which they then had added up to 47. Not a bad mark out of 30. I just hope that one of my friend’s who is an accountant is not the one who did the math.