My girlfriend, Bobbie, e-mailed me and said she was on her way out to pick up a coffee cake. She had company coming for breakfast in a little while. I wrote back and asked her to teach me how to be that relaxed. I would have bought that coffee cake the day before and had it on a doily, on a cake dish, already sliced and covered with plastic wrap.
The rest of the meal would have been pre-cooked and frozen a week earlier, and two days before company was scheduled to arrive I would have had those foods defrosted, broiled, baked, poached, nuked, toasted, un-molded, and garnished with parsley, cherries, whipped cream, nuts, powdered sugar, and drizzled chocolate and covered with foil, labeled for easy identification and refrigerated. The correct serving utensil would be resting on each plate ready to scoop, cut, or stab, as required.
The table would have been set for a week, ensuring that china dishes and crystal goblets would be covered with a fine layer of dust by the time guests arrive.
The night before I would have filled the coffee pot with water and measured 12 scoops of coffee……even though only four guests were expected. Cream would be in a small pitcher, sugar would be in a matching sugar bowl, Splenda packets arranged in a circle, and lemon wedges would be artistically arranged on small plates, and if I were serving buffet style, silverware would be laid out in an intricate abstract design, with napkins folded in some kind of Origami shape that took me three days to create. And by the time my company arrived I’d be totally run down, wiped out, exhausted, and counting the moments until they leave.
What I love is the idea of entertaining. In my fantasies I’m surrounded by friends and loved ones, and taking bows for the magnificent array of succulent foods I’ve prepared with Martha Stewart ease and perfection. I am so relaxed I don’t even hear the oven bell signaling that my souffle’ is ready, and my cream brulee’ is cool enough to serve.
But, real life has me running in frenzied circles, apprehensive and out of breath. Despite the fact that I’ve referred to a detailed written list of foods I’d be serving, which includes the time each one is to enter and exit the oven, something is always raw in the middle or burned on the top, and I have never had a dinner when, after guests have left, I didn’t find something I’d forgotten to serve still sitting in the fridge.
I remember a time when I baked a chocolate cake using a cake mix. My impatience had me frosting the cake before it had cooled, which resulted in chunks of warm cake crumbling off from the top of the cake and mixing in with the chocolate icing. It look liked it had exploded, but after a necessary moment of crying, I decided to serve it anyway. But first I walked around the table showing each guest the picture on the cake box, so they would have some idea what the hell I was serving.
Then there was the time I had 23 people over for a holiday meal that was to include my famous chicken soup and light, fluffy, matzah balls. Something went wrong – I’ve never known what – and the matzah balls never puffed up and floated to the top. Instead they remained marble sized and clung like small, heavy anchors to the bottom of the pot, which prompted my heartless grandchildren to giggle and refer to them as golf balls.
I wish I could be like my daughter, who always manages to whip up something from nothing, for however many unexpected people happen to ring her bell. But, I’m not, so if you plan on paying me a surprise visit make sure you don’t arrive empty handed.
One wonderful thing about being my age is that where I use to take great pride in saying, “Thank you. Yes, I made everything myself,” I now am capable of mustering up that same feeling of pride when I say, “Yes, it is good, isn’t it? I made none of it. The soup and lasagna came from Villa Capri, and all dessert are from La Parisian. I did, however, boil the water for tea.
Editor’s Note: Laverne H. Bardy is a syndicated humor columnist. Visit her at www.LaverneBardy.com. She’s the author of “How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old?” Her articles appear regularly on AfterFiftyLiving.com. She blogs for the HuffingtonPost.com and is also a columnist for RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, Shrewsbury.net, and WritersBeat.com. Copyright, Laverne H. Bardy, published with permission.