My wife and I were shooting the breeze recently and she had a great idea for the blog. “Why don’t you write about how to plan a meal so that you can actually spend some time with your guests?” I thought it was a fantastic idea for about three seconds, and then I realized that I don’t know how to do that!
The obvious answer, and one that has been amplified by dozens of good food writers and chefs, is that you shouldn’t plan more than one dish that requires your attention in the kitchen during the meal. Sure, lots of foods can be made in advance, but what about the great dessert that you want to serve along with your amazing grilled lamb? Does that mean that your guests have to eat cheese and crackers as a main course, or a scoop of ice cream for dessert? No, it means that they should adjourn to the kitchen and shoot the breeze with you while you cook them a great meal. What’s wrong with entertaining in the kitchen for a few minutes? Or even better, your wife (or husband?) can do a strip tease while you finish baking your award-winning dessert!
The reality is that you have to improve your efficiency, simplify your menu to exclude labor-intensive dishes, or accept the crowd in the kitchen while you frantically juggle pots and pans as your wife glares at you for making her college roommate wait for her dinner. But what is the point of killing yourself with the pressure of pumping out perfect meals. We invite people to our home for dinner because we enjoy their company. We think that dinner should be considered a bonus. And a good dinner should be considered a rare and unexpected treat! That doesn’t mean that I won’t try hard. I will work my tail off because I enjoy cooking good meals for my friends and relatives. But I will not agonize over an overcooked lamb chop or an unemulsified dressing. And if I want to spend a few more minutes in the kitchen, contrary to Emily Post’s directives, well, that is my privilege. And everyone migrates to the kitchen eventually anyway, so I won’t be alone.