Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Good Eats

After learning the hard way that just because something looks pretty on the plate doesn't guarantee it will taste amazing, I actually trust messy-looking fare over perfection. 

But when playing hostess, presentation counts for a lot; I am no less susceptible. For us Jewesses, hosting Shabbos and yontif meals is a given, laden with competitive undercurrents as to which lady had the best spread/display/composure. 

We want to be able to glide into the dining room with a culinary masterpiece that took hours but we claim, "Oh, it was nothing." Our challahs are expected to be homemade, our cholent to be simmered to divinity, and of course, the tablecloth will sparkle like freshly-bleached teeth.

But in the hullabaloo that heralds Friday, there can be mistakes. Store-bought challahs because the Bosch broke or the dough refused to rise. Insufficient water burned the cholent. As for the tablecloth, last week's wine and grease defied the detergent.

For a new dish that failed to fly, here's a little trick from Melissa Clark: simply rename it. 

We shouldn't be constantly apologizing if there was technical difficulties with food, she says. See if it is possible to salvage it, then tack on a new label. 

For us Sabbath observers, that is only an option before Shabbos has arrived or on yontif. There are three recipes she offers has to what to do with overcooked vegetables, meat, or burnt cookies.

She also clarifies as to why guests actually come in the first place. 
After all, you’ve just invited your friends into your home and cooked them dinner. They are happy to be there, basking in your generosity. They don’t care if the roast is a tad dry, or the vegetables a bit soggy, or if your duck looks as if it waded into a coastal oil spill. 
They are just ecstatic to be out of the house. Despite the fact my sister had a fever and an infection on yontif, somehow two couples invited themselves over for meals. 

So STOP APOLOGIZING. It doesn't behoove you, as mistress of your home, to be so unsure of your abilities. If it isn't exactly as you would have liked, mention it in passing then move on.

Enjoy yourself while you can. Soon the leftovers will have to be packed away and space found in the suddenly-too-small fridge.     


MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

This is why I hate having guests for Shabbos and Yom Tov. The wife starts cooking 4 days before because she has to put out tons of gourmet looking and tasting food, drives herself crazy and me as well with the mess she leaves behind. But the worst part is that she makes so much no one can have more than a little bit of each dish so she looks at what's left and thinks no one took anything after all her hard work.

nechama said...

I started toning down my standards when I noticed i was reacting like your description. You know what? People are still glad.to come and I enjoy their company more.

Princess Lea said...

My, do people want to come! Everyone craves variety, even if the kugel is a little too crispy.