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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Releasing the entertainer

I may have told you guys this before but indulge me, if you will.  My grandpa's second wife left quite the impression on how I turned out on the entertaining front.  She loved to entertain and I mean loved it.  She would have these huge spreads in her big U shaped kitchen with every available space covered with elaborate dishes, cake plates of treats and delectable sides.  When you come from a family of somewhat picky eaters, this dazzles you in a way that is bound to stick with you.  I knew when I grew up, I wanted to be that way.  I wanted to pay attention to presentation and make fancy pants dishes.  Her chicken cordon bleu was the first time I had it and I loved it so much we had it at our wedding.  That marriage ended after almost 10 years and I never saw her again but her mark had been made on me.

As an adult, it's been a little frustrating that my pension for culinary flair can't be exercised more often.  The Mr benefits of course, and it's not unusual for me to come up from our workout at 7:00pm and sear a pepper crusted sirloin with a twice baked potato or make mango glazed tuna over barley and red rice with vegetable melange.  Don't get me wrong, sometimes we just have a chicken quesadilla and Brussels sprouts.  But many of you comment on Facebook (when I remember to post dinner pics) about how pretty my presentation is.  Most of the time, it's nothing more than a crumble of asiago or cut scallions but still, it makes a difference.  Sometimes when I have family over for what is a normal dinner for us, I'll get: "What is this "fancy" lettuce??"  Um, it's spinach and arugula.  "What's in this?...*sniff*"  Just eat it!  I know it doesn't come from a box or a chain restaurant but I assure you it's good.  They get scared because we eat stuff like hummus and quinoa and what if I make them eat (delicious) "weird" things?  So to guard my thin skin, I rarely invite people over anymore that I know may make me feel like I'm serving them head cheese.  The entertainer in me feels like she's in a straight jacket bouncing off the walls.  It stinks to want to buy everything in Sur La Table but know that no one is going to see those serving platters.  (I know Mr...we don't have room for them anyway.)

I love making an 'experience' for people when they come over.  I've done Christmas afternoon teas when a friend was in town and a healthy afternoon tea for a friend who is in town but is awed by my entertaining skills because she doesn't have time to cook herself.  Sadly I only get to see her maybe once a year.  I got to cook for a friend and his girlfriend that came in from Chicago a few months ago and made Croque Madame, sweet potato hash with bacon date jam and pumpkin scones.

(Damn that was good)

So unless I've got people taking vacations to my neck of the woods once or twice every other year, that entertainer takes what she can get.  I told you that to tell you this.

You all know how soul-sucking the holidays are for me since Grandma's diagnosis.  (Though Thanksgiving was quite nice.  I'll take more of those, please.)  I decided that I'd invite my mom and aunt over for an 'experience.'  I made up a little invitation for "cookies, cocoa, and Christmas lights" and asked if they were available and dinner would be provided.  Now if my mama is a somewhat picky eater, my aunt is twice as picky.  Plan for your audience.  I knew while spinach and arugula would get maybe eaten by mom that the aunt would pass, so I got romaine which I'm fine with and made a main dish that I knew they'd probably both like.

I set up a hot cocoa bar with all the fixins so we could make hot chocolate...

To be more specific, truffle hot chocolate.

and load up on cookies but made different kinds than the ones I knew we'd OD on in the next week or two.

These aren't so pretty but taste damn good.

The idea was we would get our hot chocolate and cookies, pile into the car to go look at Christmas lights.  Mom and I used to do that when I was a kid and the Mr and I usually try to do that once a season if not more because I still ooh and ahh like I'm 5 years old.

Unfortunately, we got sucked into a time warp and there was no time for Christmas lights with the four of us.  Three and a half hours flew by in a flash but there was gabbing and good eats (well, to us at least.  I don't know how you don't like basically the baked version of fried macaroni and cheese but I didn't get the feeling they liked it and mom snubbed the salad feigning she was saving room.  Mmm hmm) so should I decide to do it again, dinner won't likely be involved.  But they loved the little parting gifts I gave them.  I did a few homemade Christmas crackers with stuff like lip balm from TJ's, lipstick, purse-sized hand lotion and a few little candies.  Then the stuff that wouldn't fit in the cracker was in a little bag which was a pashmina and spruce candle which is mild enough for even my sniffer so I knew it should be okay.  They said they felt so special and how nice it was to do something different so, in the end, I guess mission accomplished.  It was nice to get them outside the normal setting and just enjoy the evening. 

The Mr and I didn't miss out on the Christmas lights though.  When they left, we went out and looked at Christmas lights ourselves.  We loaded up the cookies I made for the purpose and another cup of hot cocoa (which we probably should've skipped, we're not used to that rich milk and were rather symphonic later) and spent over an hour driving around.  This one is always our favorite.

Do you like to entertain?  Who was the person who inspired you to if you do?

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  1. I had a great time of course. Loved all the food, and I mean all of it, and enjoyed looking at lights while having some cookies and hot cocoa to enjoy. The crackers were a big hit and I could see them wanting to do that again sometime for sure. I think they did need that more than they probably realized.

  2. I LOVE entertaining! Maybe it's more about feeding people. My mom is a "food pusher"---"Want some cookies? No. We have ice cream. No? Let's see what else we have ..." She'll go through every cupboard and refrigerator until she has something you want to eat. When I was dating my husband, I told him "Just take something or she won't STOP until you do!" It's how she shows her love. And my nieces and nephews know---Grammy NEVER says no to cookies & cupcakes!

  3. I don't really like cooking for just my son and I, but I don't mind fixing something a little nicer for guests. I do like to entertain, but I don't have a lot of opportunities for that. Your hot chocolate bar looks really amazing, and the mac and cheese and salad sounds pretty good to me.

    We always go look at Christmas lights too. The movie theatre in town is a little 2 screen one run by a local family. They will let you run in and get popcorn to go - so every year we go get movie theatre popcorn and drive around looking at the Christmas lights.

  4. I'm not an entertainer, but do appreciate those who enjoy it. My mom could put on a spread like nobody's business and always had the most creative things to hand out. I'm so glad you had such a lovely time with your mom and aunt and enjoyed a peaceful drive looking at the lights. I know people seemed to go all out here, more so than in other years, I think because it was so warm in November it was actually pleasant to hang lights outside.

  5. I love entertaining because it warms my heart. Not a bad cook but not a great one either. You my friend are so creative and talented and your voice on your videos oozes your love of your craft! The pictures of your gorgeous creations tickle the eyes! I think you would be highly successful as a chef for hire for intimate gatherings. Have a fantastic day!


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