This little muse goes along nicely with my previous thoughts on bookending a decade. Today, at rather short notice, I fed about 16 people for lunch. I say "about" because one of them was only 9 months old and therefore required minimal feeding on my part, one of them meandered in half way through the afternoon, two of them only decided to come on Friday, and then only one of the two came. So I sort of lost track of who was actually there.
If we gaze back into the mists of time, this is about the same number of people as I catered for at GrannyBear's 60th birthday. There were also infant-sized beings on that occasion too. I don't think there were any late entries or withdrawals, it being a rather better regulated affair. Now admittedly, I was very keen that everything should be perfect for GrannyBear's birthday, and on top of making a multi-course (buffet) lunch, I also made a large cake and decorated it with hand-made sugarpaste flowers. But even if we only consider the main dishes, I spent weeks planning what to make. Planning which plates it would all fit on. Worrying about which order to cook things in. Thinking about which combination of salads, tarts, cheeses and flans would work best. Wondering how many new loose-bottomed flan dishes I'd need to buy. Weighing up the pros and cons of new serving dishes and disposable foil trays. I lay awake at night going over and over and over it all in my head, cataloging the number of people, the number of dishes, how much bread, when I would arrange the last minute dash to the shops for the bread (not to mention the fact that I would be preparing all the food at home and then driving it 150 miles to BrotherBear's house, where the party was to be held). I took a day off work beforehand and spend the whole day baking. I even removed a partition in my kitchen and bought a new fridge just to be able to cater for the meal.
Today? I'd got a vague idea what I'd make by Thursday, though couldn't find the recipes, so put in a Tesco order for a random assortment of stuff that would probably assemble into something edible. I delegated pudding to friend Piglet and LovelyColleague*. They volunteered and I'm no longer too proud to bite their arm off at a hint of an offer of help. Extra people said they'd come on Friday, so I increased the beer quotient before the delivery. Tesco duly filled the fridge on Saturday and by 10:30pm I'd made a chicken salad, a smoked salmon quiche**, a batch of sausage rolls, a batch of cheese puffs and grilled half a pig's worth of bacon for another salad.
* LovelyColleague and his Wife were the constructors of LittleBear's playhouse. In truth it was Wife who made the puddings, though it was LovelyColleague who volunteered (allegedly at her behest!)
** The reason it took till half past ten was this blasted quiche. It turned out it was pastry-week here and I hadn't really read the recipe properly before choosing to follow it, so ended up making a very short shortcrust, then chilling it, then rolling it out, then freezing it, then partially blind baking, then egg washing (don't want a soggy bottom), then completing the blind baking, then filling it, then baking it. Mary Berry would have been proud. And my bottom wasn't soggy.
Despite BigBear going out running for two hours this morning, I managed to hand over child-care to David Attenborough for a while and completed the chopping, mixing, slicing, shredding, spreading, dressing, chilling, warming and baking, interrupted approximately every 3 minutes by "Mummy! Come and see the amphipods!" or some other such irresistible offer. After the seventeenth time I was, I confess, growling through gritted teeth, "I am trying to get lunch ready. If you keep interrupting me, there won't be any lunch."
Well, it all kind of came together. People ate, drank and were merry. We took it in turns to say "No, don't wave the hoe in the air" and "No, don't feed cat biscuits to the baby". There's food left over, but not too much, which I take as a sign that it was tasty enough and plentiful enough. And we've got more bottles of wine than we started with. That's my kind of outcome.
And I'm pretty certain the children enjoyed it...
|Ice-creams can induce four small children to sit down simultaneously|
The last guests left just before LittleBear's dinner time, and he shared a goodbye cuddle and kiss with his little friend, Piglet's daughter.
|The welly with which she is standing on his foot makes it for me|
I'm almost beginning to think I may be more chilled out now than I used to be. Or perhaps my standards have slipped to something below "absolute perfection". Or perhaps I'm now able to accept that my friends and family don't ration their love for me based on how flawless my baking is. Or perhaps I just ration my love and attention and give it to those who don't judge me, which makes being relaxed a lot easier. Whatever it is, today was a lovely day, made lovelier by not spending weeks stressing about it beforehand. I think I might need to wing it more often, it's not such a bad feeling***.
*** Shhhhh. Don't tell BigBear. He's been telling me to play it by ear for years. We don't want him thinking he's right or anything...