Menu Planning - a summer series (1)
|I never worry about spilled wine
I think that's a pity. There should be few more pleasant experiences than sharing food among friends. It's been said thousands of times, but I'll point it out again, that the word "companion" contains the Latin word for bread. It means the person you share your food with. What has gone wrong, then, in English-speaking cultures, that we associate this most basic of joys with stress? I'd suggest it is because many of us no longer eat as families on a day-to-day basis. Table companionship is strange to us, and when we cater for guests, we're not sure what we should be doing, so end up trying to do too much.
Now, let me be clear here: I don't belong to that school of thought that says cooking should be as easy as possible. If you have the time, interest and skills to make your own bread and cure your own salmon, then why not do it? Surely your guests deserve the best of you? On the other hand, if you're getting stressed at the thought of making curry from whole spices for the first time, for instance, you're not giving your guests the best of you at all. Buy a jar of sauce and concentrate on what it is that you are talented at, be that decorating a table, or choosing great music, or animating a conversation, or pouring the wine.
So, the first principle of menu-planning is: decide what you can do brilliantly.
The second principle of menu-planning is, then: decide how you want to serve the food.
|A recent dinner for which I used service russe
We'll look at each of these service styles in the coming weeks, so we can consider advantages and drawbacks each has for the kinds of event you might want to put on. I know most of my readers love to know more about aperitif drinking and cocktail-making, so I'll intersperse the menu-planning series with other posts about summer drinking. In the meantime, dig out your favourite food books, let your fantasies run wild and get creative.
Next time: some classic American cocktails for Independence weekend.