Tuesday, April 3, 2012

42 Steps to a Perfect Dinner Party

Getting settled can take a while, but on Monday, I finally felt like I had the energy and creativity such that I could entertain some friends. “Why not come over for dinner?” I suggested, and the date was set. Little did I realize that my innocent suggestion was going to lead to an all-day affair in the kitchen! You don’t believe me? Here are 42 steps to a perfect dinner party!

1)    Day before: Figure out what ingredients you already have (bread dough, strawberries, browned mince (ground beef), salad dressing, some vegetables) and which recipes make the most sense in light of your pantry (lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and strawberry shortcakes).
2)    6:30 am: Remember to turn on the water pump to fill the tank (otherwise there is no water for dishes or showers or laundry)
3)    6:45 am: Confirm list of needed ingredients for the day, count market money, gather bilums
4)    7 am: Walk to market and purchase your vegetables
5)    7:30 am: Come back home carrying vegetables on your head; bleach and rinse your vegetables
6)    8:00 am: Attempt to start the morning’s work… Work? What’s that?
7)    12 pm: Walk to the store to find ingredients you don’t have
8)    Be thrilled you found lasagna noodles (not common here)
9)    Wonder what you will do for lasagna since there is no cottage or ricotta cheese in the store
10)    12:45 pm: Go home; look up cottage cheese substitutions
11)    Discover you can make ricotta cheese substitute. Hope that it works with powdered milk. Be really glad for yogurt
12)    1 pm: Sit down and attempt to address the pile of emails in the inbox.
The place where the magic happens!
13)    2:30 pm: Start the garlic bread rising
14)    Start lasagna sauce (no tomato sauce in store…start from scratch with tomatoes purchased at market)
15)    Begin making ricotta cheese
16)    Wonder why the oven is not pre-heating. Discover the gas went out.
17)    Try to change the gas can. Have much difficulty. Get a pliers. Continue to have lots of difficulty. Argue with God. Eventually get the gas to turn on. Praise God.
18)    In the meantime, start getting dough ready for the shortcakes
19)    Realize you don’t have sour cream for the shortcake dough. Discover that yogurt + baking soda is a substitute. Be really glad for yogurt.
20)    4:15 pm: Put bread in the oven.
21)    Wonder why it is only reaching 250 degrees.
22)    Pray that it will continue to work and eventually bake the bread
23)    Strain cheese and make filling for lasagna
24)    Remember that in the States you can buy pre-shredded cheese. Not here. Proceed to shred.
25)    Compile lasagna.
26)    Check bread. It’s baking slowly. Temperature is too low.
27)    Run outside and try to fix gas.
28)    Wash dishes.
29)    Start chopping vegetables for salad.
30)    5 pm: Remove bread from oven, insert shortbread
31)    Run outside and try to fix gas
32)    Wash more dishes.
33)    5:15 pm: Remove shortbread from oven and insert lasagna
34)    Get garlic bread spread ready and insert garlic bread into oven
35)    Try to get strawberry sauce ready
36)    Realize that you don’t have vanilla for the whipped cream
37)    Run next door and get vanilla from kind neighbors
38)    Run back and make whipped cream. Beat and beat and beat until soft peaks form. Long time.
39)    5:45 pm: Frantically wash more dishes.
40)    5:55 pm: Try to set the table and straighten the visible parts of the house.
41)    5:57 pm: Hope that the lasagna is cooking…gas is dropping lower
42)    6:00 pm: Discover the napkins that you couldn’t find… and answer the door. Come in! Come in! I’m so glad to see you!

Whew! Despite the oven’s best attempts to thwart my baking, all food turned out delicious and thoroughly cooked. Hooray! A perfect dinner party to conclude the day :-) And only 42 steps to get there!

*I’d like to note that making a dinner doesn’t always turn into an all-day escapade. This one just happened to. Really. :-)