Culinary calamities

Menu board_small

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:

  1. 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;
  2. Ask your guests if they like smoked ocean trout before you decide to serve them smoked ocean trout for dinner;
  3. 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;
  4. Drink lots of wine so that no one remembers the food the next day; and
  5. 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.

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