"As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create.”
—Mr. Spock, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
How many food blogs do you know that start with a quote from Star Trek? Not many, I hope.
This quote resonates with me based on my recent experience hosting a dinner party. For anyone who has ever hosted one, dinner parties take a considerable degree of planning, hard work, and, most importantly, impeccable timing. The goal is to avoid scrambling around at the last minute or, even worse, spending all your time in the kitchen cooking rather than socializing with your guests. I know this rule, and I know to follow it, but a few weeks ago I broke it like a two-year old with a new toy. Damn, did I screw up!
Typically, I start pulling things together at least several days before the big event. For example, I will buy the non-perishable items and clean and iron the linens about two or three days out. I will make any soups, dressings, or sauces the day before. On the day of the dinner, I make the dessert in the morning and then get the flowers and perishable items and bread that afternoon as well.
For whatever reason, this year I got a terribly late start. I didn't get started until 10:30AM on the day of the dinner when I finally walked out the door to do the grocery shopping. Because I got sidetracked with a bite to eat at lunch, I didn't get started until 2:30PM—a mere four hours before the guests were to arrive!
I started with Ina Garten’s recipe for orange chocolate mousse, which I had not made in a very, very long time. It was really like trying a new dessert on your guests, which is a big no-no. Needless to say, it took me a lot longer to make than I thought. The next thing I know it’s 4:30PM, and I’ve not started the chicken with forty cloves of garlic, much less the amuse bouche I was planning to make. Quickly, I made an executive decision and texted my guests to come at 7:00PM instead of 6:30PM. Thirty precious minutes!
©2015 Chris TerrellThis photo is not staged!
Then I panicked. And that’s where the mess in the kitchen started to build up. My mom always preached about “cleaning up as you go along.” It’s also a maxim taught in all the culinary schools and I know it to be true. I’ve tried like hell through the years to live by this rule, but I just can’t seem to do it. Others can. I know, I’ve seen them do it. I can usually follow this advice better when I’m not rushed. As the time ticked away, the pots and pans piled up higher and higher.
Thankfully, the meal turned out fine, especially the mousse, and after a “few” bottles of wine, I don’t think any of us even noticed that I had completely destroyed the kitchen.
©2015 Chris Terrell
(No plate because they were all dirty.)
The next day, Laura and I paid the price. After I had a hot dog for a late breakfast, we began the slow, painful process of rebuilding my kitchen. There really should be some kind of culinary Marshall Plan for times like these.
After an hour, we had to take a break, and in between viewings of old Mad Men episodes, some progress was made slowly through the day. (Full recovery wasn’t achieved, however, until 5:34PM, the next day.) Late in the afternoon, we gave up and ordered pizza and returned to Season 3 of Mad Men.
While I paid a heavy price for my poor planning, it was well worth it. We all had a great time (even if I was a tad bit stressed at times). Spock may be right—it is easier to destroy [a perfectly good kitchen]—but it’s a hell of a lot more fun to create, and even more fun to enjoy that creation with others.
©2015 Chris Terrell