March 9th, 2005


Timing is everything

I've been writing up the wonderful successes which have been the cooking classes and boasting of dishes I've cooked which turned out perfectly. I don't often write about how things go wrong, because, frankly, it's less flattering to me, and I like having my hair and makeup just right for LJ, so to speak.

Last night, I held a dinner party of sorts, and had a handful of lovely people, just enough so that we wouldn't be too crowded if we sat around the dinner table. The company was good, there was plenty of food, and nothing went disastrously wrong - but that doesn't mean I don't have a great deal left to learn and practice about having guests over.

  • There was plenty of food. In fact, because I am bad at estimating quantities, there was entirely too much food. I could live off of the raw ingredients for weeks. The only real consolation to this problem is that I prepared about the right amount of food. The raw ingredients are what are filling up my storage spaces. I also have an enormous selection of cheese currently, due to a weak will, and every cheese having a specific purpose when I bought it.
  • I cook frittata about twice a month. It's always come out perfect, a reliable, tasty dish, good for guests and good for leftovers. Usually, a frittata takes five to ten minutes to set, even if it's on the large size. After 20 or 30 minutes, this one still hadn't set. It never did. I threw it out in the end. I'm trying to figure out what I did wrong, and the only thing I can think of thus far is that I think I usually use cream instead of milk. The recipe, however, calls for milk.
  • I forgot to put out two of the three parts to dessert. I made fruit salad earlier in the day, and had a nice bag of chocolates. Also, there was the option of mascarpone to have with the muffins, from back when I thought I'd bought mostarda, not marmelata. I forgot to put out the mascarpone as well.
  • I'd been hoping to have the six of us have a nice sit-down meal with real plates and silverware at the table. This would have been more realistic if I'd thought more about the fact that I only have six of everything, and that I was already using many of the regular plates as serving plates. Fortunately, I have an enormous supply of paper plates and plastic silverware. But it's not the same.
  • I set off the smoke detector twice while my guests were around. The alarm is sensitive - nothing was burning, just browning.
  • Timing is everything. I carefully chose dishes for dinner which I could prepare largely in advance, and thus spend plenty of time with my guests. Theoretically, my logic was sound. In practice, I was an hour behind, and thus missed out on quite a bit of time I could have spent with them. This also makes me a poor host. Usually, it wouldn't be a problem if I needed to do one more hour of cooking, because C. would be here and could make sure everyone had drinks. Also, he could help me do the dishes today.

Many of these problems could be solved by making up a more rigorous timetable in advance. The rest, I suspect, only experience will mend. There will be more on quince in a different post.