A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me to help her prepare for a dinner party for about twenty people. Naturally I said I would. We entertain quite a bit and thought this could be a lot of fun and really help me to use my talents and time wisely. We decided on an Italian theme because large quantities of various delectable offerings could be made to fancy even the most fastidious eater.
My friend decided on a date and proceeded to invite her friends. Naturally, the list grew but I was not alarmed. I assured her that all would be well. After all, we were in this together. It was then that she realized that Sundance would be going on that week in Park City, and since she runs her own division of NPR, she was going to be extremely busy interviewing VIP's all week. Again, I put her fears to rest. “Everything will be fine. I'll prepare 90% and you do the rest.”
For the next two weeks I made lists, shopped, cooked, froze what could be frozen, and dreamed of nothing else but putting this party together without a hitch.
I made appetizers, huge lasagnas, one meat and one butternut squash, a pork roast the size of a large fire log, tiramisu, cannoli, and even remembered to trim the tables in an Italian theme complete with red, green and white flowers, m&m's of the same, and plenty of candles. Martha would have been so proud.
The forty or so people who came had a great time. At least I think they did. After my third or forth glass of wine, it didn't seem to matter to me as much. All I knew was that it was going to be a while before I felt like cooking again. What is it they say about best laid plans?
While at the party my husband, Daniel, struck up a an interesting conversation with a documentary film maker. You might say, “they bonded” and soon I heard the following words escape from his lips before I could slap him. “You should come to dinner while you're in town.” I smiled and said that was great idea and he should bring his partner. They jumped at the idea and said that Tuesday would work for them. I figured I would be healed by then and joked about ordering a pizza. He laughed and said that would be fine as he was not fussy. Anyone who knows me knows that I would never order a pizza for company. I was already formulating a menu in my mind.
The next day we received a call from them stating that they could only come on Monday night. “No problem,” I said, although I had really been counting on that extra day of recuperation. I'm not a young chick anymore and healing takes more than twenty four hours.
I summoned all the moxie I had and decided that I could do this one last thing, and then die. I chose to make Moroccan chicken. It looks impressive but is surprisingly easy to make. Fresh steamed veggies with herb butter, Parmesan couscous and an Apple Crostata for dessert would round out the meal nicely. The pie dough disc was already in the freezer, so easy right? And it was.
I flew through the house making it ready, set a beautiful table, the guests arrived. We sat down at the table and then the bomb dropped. Our new friend surveyed everything on the table, and said, “Boy everything looks wonderful, but I'm a Vegetarian.”
Right then and there you could have heard a pin drop. I'm sure he must have seen my eyes bulging, my pulse quicken and my skin color turn pallor, because he immediately apologized that he had not shared his eating habits with me and said he would eat around the chicken. For a brief second I thought about all the wonderful vegetarian meals I make on a weekly basis and could have prepared, but now I could have cared less. I was tired, no, make that exhausted and I just wanted this evening to end.
The next day I came down with a head cold and moped around all day in bedclothes. I was thankful that we had leftovers because I was never going to cook again. Every time I passed by the kitchen I would take note of the last piece of pie sitting lonely on it's plate. I had decided that I would save it for Daniel, because that is what I always do. I never eat the last piece of anything. I suppose this self sacrificing comes with the business of motherhood. Give, give and give some more. About 2:00pm I gazed at that pie again and for once my altruism took a back seat. I grabbed that plate and placed it in the microwave to heat for a few seconds, pulled the vanilla ice cream out of the freezer and placed a big scoop on top of that pie.
I sat myself down in front of the TV, flipped on the food channel just in time to see Paula put a big piece of something gooey in her mouth. I felt victorious and naughty and it felt great. I had had the last piece for a change, and I deserved it.
© Christine Geery 2012
Moroccan Chicken (adapted from Ina Garten)