Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Daily highlight #40: Joy of the table

To me, eating is special and sharing, the ultimate joy. Like my mother, I love having people over for dinner. For a long time, I tried to run things the way she does. It was hard work. The woman is a perfectionist and all about efficiency. She is known to turn out ten dish Chinese banquets by herself and serve everything warm all at the same time. While it always looked impressive, it was no fun helping her in the kitchen. Neither my dad nor I ever did the right thing or was fast enough to get her what she needed. Inevitably, we got kicked out of the kitchen.

The one good thing about living with a man who has no sense of time (unless it's for business) is that it trains you in the fine art of being patient. J collects watches, but definitely not for the purpose of keeping time. When there is no life or money on the line, the man knows exactly how to take his sweet sweet time. It would have drove my mother absolutely crazy, but it did wonders for me. It actually taught me to be a much much happier woman when I learned the fine art of taking it easy.

Now when I have people over, I cook things that allow me that luxury. My friends can go out to a restaurant if they wanted. They come to my house, not looking for four star execution, but for fun with friends and good home cooking. The easiest way I found to provide that is in the form of a pot roast.

This is not to say that I don't like the mood to be special. I find that taking a little time to lay out the table does wonders for making people feel welcome. I am fond of scarves and many a times I'd pull one out in the color of the season for the table.

I also like to leaving something at the bar for people to nibble on while they talk to me in the kitchen, where I am the happiest. There is always a bottle of something to lubricate throats and whet appetites. The pot roast never fails to smell wonderful even when all you had in the fridge to thrown in were some baby carrots and onions.
When it's done, I put everything out on the counter for people to serve themselves.

For my man, there is often rice. For company, I make it just a bit more special with some roasted corn and peas added in.

A green salad is a good idea. J and I love our vegetables and it's so easy. I like to add some hot elements to the dish at the last minute. In this case, I pan fried some sweet peppers and onions to wilt the arugula a bit right before serving.

I like to bake something earlier in the day for dessert. This time, I didn't have to do that. A dear friend had sent us some French madeleine in a basket. J and I really are so lucky to have such wonderful friends. Ice cream rounds out the meal and makes everyone happy. It doesn't even matter the flavor. It's always good.

Often we end the meal and move on to games. A little competition helps with digestion. At the end of the night, I am relaxed and happy and ready to do it all over again soon.

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