I love to entertain. In fact, when we did a renovation of our 1950’s cape cod, all I said to the contractor was, “I want FLOW!!!”
Now, because I am prone to stress (the good kind – the buzzing that makes me really productive), I have different levels of stress for different types of entertaining. And each type has its own protocol, because I am completely neurotic.
So. Bottom of the barrel is happy hour. That’s pita chips and hummus and my kitchen table. No big deal.
A family cookout – no stress. Paper plates are okay. It’s a call to my sister (“I need salsa, stat!”) or an appreciation for the wine I always know my brother’s wife brings. (Don’t worry, brother-who-I have-been-forbidden-to-mention-in-my-blog, it’s not you.) (Thank God for big families. My sister doesn’t care if I talk about her and other two brothers don’t know the blog exists.)
Then, some of our favorite neighbors over for dinner…very minimal stress. Tidy up the house; use the kitchen plates and real napkins. Mainly that stress is remembering what I served them the last time so I don’t repeat it. These are the friends who once made their way over here in a snowstorm and sat on the floor in their pajamas eating chicken-noodle soup in front of the fire, so they’re pretty low-maintenance.
Then, a small party for any reason. Kid’s birthday, Father’s Day, Whit’s birthday, that’s a little more stress. That’s bring out the party plates I got in large quantities for larger crowds, have more appetizers, possibly have several different drink options. Use the cute cocktail napkins. But mainly, it’s just a bigger guest list so more to-do’s. This isn’t mach-10 planning, but it’s a lot of lists and several trips to the grocery store.
The mac daddy of all stress is my annual Christmas Eve party. It’s carrying on a tradition of my mom’s, and it gets bigger and more expensive and more complicated every year. Last year I had 75 guests. I stress and stress and call my caterer friend and call my interior decorator friend and work my ass off for a month, sweating and cursing and swearing I will NEVER do it again. (By March, I’m planning my menu for the next year. I’m totally all bark and no bite.)
Anyway, past small party but before Christmas Eve is a Dinner Party, which I am having on Saturday, and which must be capitalized. When capitalized, it means good china and crystal, dining room, meticulously planned menu and fabulous wines. (The latter resulted in me racing through the wine store a few days ago screaming into the cell phone to my oenophile, out-of-town brother, “I KNOW you’re working! But spell that! Alta or alto? Isn’t that singing?? Did you say PROSECCO?” I irritated the hell out of him but I got good wine. He really knows his wine and he’s pretty patient with me.)
Oh, but as Whit will tell you, I always make my life ten times harder than it has to be.
So when it’s called a capital-D Dinner capital P-Party, it means I have to pick one seemingly impossible thing to do so that I will be appropriately rewarded if it works out well.
This time, it’s trying to make a dessert that looks really complicated. But I got a new cookbook for my birthday and I am determined to make (drumroll please) ginger tuile cups with champagne sabayon and fresh berries.
The stress-o-meter is inching higher.
I feel like I’m preparing for a major sporting event. I made a list. I double checked it. I went to the grocery store. I got all the ingredients; I’ve triple checked to make sure I have all the right utensils. I’ve gone over the recipe in my head so many times I’ve almost committed it to memory. I’m prepared to wake up at the crack of dawn tomorrow and transform cookie dough into delicately and elegantly shaped wavy bowls.
I'm armed. I'm ready.
Oh, crap, this is just too much. Maybe I should just call it a cookout and crack open the wine.