One of the most important facets of our lives, that of sitting and eating dinner with friends and family, has been dangerously eroded. Hectic schedules mean grab and go meals. Drive-throughs facilitate that. And how many of us take the time to eat without company of TV, internet, smart phones?
Making time to sit and enjoy a meal is important, and making time to sit and eat with family and friends is critical to our well-being. I believe strongly in the power of the dinner table: the conversations, the relationship-building, the memories made. If it can be tied in with a fabulous meal, that’s great. But more so, the act of breaking bread together is what fuels us, and that can be over something as simple as a take-out pizza. Food is not something that should be stressed over–if you don’t cook, don’t feel you have to. It’s about the companionship, not what’s on the table.
I love to cook, and I was fortunate enough this weekend to have the company of three friends for dinner. And I had great reasons to go all out! One friend is in town, having moved out of province some months ago. The second one is a true gourmand, she loves to eat and turns up her nose at virtually nothing. And for the third, it was going to be her first time joining us at my house, so I thought I should try and make a good impression.
First thing I do when planning supper is to pick a theme around which to build a menu. Because the three amigos are all hilariously funny, I decided to go with bad puns and word play. Because I’m also recipe testing for my next book, I thought I’d tie in some of those dishes as well. I like variety, so a multi course menu was in order, and ten seemed like a good number (small plates!).
The key to pulling off a multi course menu is to create a realistic work plan. And I plan everything, down to the smallest detail. I have a prep list that I stick by, and a dinner execution list that I keep close to the stove and follow. That allows me to enjoy my company without always trying to remember what comes next, and what should be on the plate, and what goes on which dish.
But it really doesn’t matter what you’re serving to your guests, be they family or friends. It matters that you’re gathered around the table, plugged in to the conversation, connected by the food, and each other.
For those with warped humour, here is the Bad Pun and Wordplay Menu:
Give Peas a Chance
Curried split pea soup/cilantro sour cream
Don’t Turnip your Nose, this dish is Tops
maple roasted turnip w/turnip tops and partridgeberry vinaigrette
Where’s the Beef Carpaccio?
Chiogga & golden beet carpaccio/Dijon tarragon aioli
Gnocchi/roast pumpkin puree/sage/toasted pumpkin seeds
Tongues –n- cheeks
Cod tongues and cheeks/tomatoes/capers/olives/fennel
Molasses marinated venison/roesti/caramelized red onion
This Fungi is for Ewe, and it’s not Baaaad.
Braised lamb/wild mushroom ragout/polenta
Who’s Cider You On?
Sparkling apple cider sorbet
When Pigs Fly
Quail/sausage stuffing in prosciutto/quinoa/parsnip/carrots
Knock, knock, who’s there Dessert
Knock, Knock, who’s there? Banana, Banana who. Repeat x 4
Knock, Knock, who’s there? Orange. Orange you glad there’s no banana in the dessert? (one of the guests can’t eat banana)