The morning after . . .
Because our dinner was last-minute, I didn't bother to find someone to help with serving or doing dishes. It was entirely up to Boy and me to do all the cooking, serving, and washing up. We therefore chose a menu that required a minimum of attention while our guests would be with us, and that could largely be prepared ahead of their arrival.
Our menu closely followed what I believe is a foolproof menu for easy entertaining in what Julia Child famously termed the "servantless household":
- We had a substantial spread of cheeses, breadsticks, olives, and other assorted store-bought savories for our guests; we also had carrots and hummus, and several bunches of grapes. There was a sufficient amount of food to tide everyone over until dinner, and enough that we needed only to provide a main course and dessert at table (i.e., no salad or soup);
- We offered a limited number of drinks during cocktails--no more than two spirits (one clear, one brown), white wine, and a non-alchoholic beverage;
- For dinner we served roast chicken accompanied by roasted potatoes and shallots, and room-temperature asparagus drizzled with vinaigrette. We served a good-quality Cotes du Rhone and water;
- Dessert was originally planned to be fresh raspberries with mascarpone and butter cookies. One of our guests, a fabulous baker, arrived unexpectedly with her signature heavenly coconut cake (with a nest of candy eggs on top), so we served that instead, delightedly, with the raspberries.
As soon as we arrived at the house Boy and I divided responsibilities. He took on the setting and decorating of the table and dining room, whereas I agreed to prepare the food. We thought that it would be fun to set the table colorfully, keying off the spring palette. Boy found a purple-and-white toile tablecloth in our stacks of linens that we had never used. Perfect! He then set the table with green and pink plates, and amethyst glass water goblets. Cut-glass syllabubs and salts, and small silver bowls full of foil-wrapped milk-chocolate eggs decorated the table, topped with an orchid borrowed from our drawing room. It was a pretty, colorful table, and more whimsical and fanciful than usual for us. Our guests loved it.
Boy divided the eggs by color into separate vessels
My point in relaying this in such detail is that I would like those of my readers who are overwhelmed by the prospect of entertaining to understand that they needn't be. Yes, assembling and preparing the food required planning and execution, as did setting the table. But, really, the effort of putting on this dinner was not taxing. And it needn't be as much effort as we put into it, either. If the prospect of cooking a dinner is daunting to you, then buy prepared food and serve it to your guests. It doesn't have to come from a fancy purveyor that is going to bankrupt your budget. Every supermarket I know of sells roast chickens, and many have prepared food sections where it is easy to assemble a dinner party's worth of courses. All you have to do is serve it.
My point here is to encourage all of my readers to entertain. It is easy, and it is fun!
Oh, and if you are lucky, you just might get a return invitation from one or more of your grateful guests . . .
Photos by Reggie Darling