Thursday, March 24, 2011

Do you Souffle?

Rhys reporting in from sunny but cold Santa Fe where I'm attending the Left Coast Crime convention. It starts today and I'll give an update on Saturday.
Rccently I've been trying to cut clutter in my house. We've lived in the same house since 1980 and we've amassed a lot of stuff over that time. As part of the weeding out process I've been going through old papers. They make fascinating reading--story ideas that never got written, letters children wrote from adventures around the world, letters from people who are no longer alive, and old diaries.

The one thing that strikes me from the early years of my marriage was that we entertained ALL THE TIME! It was not unusual to have more than one dinner party a week. And it seems that I cooked ambitious meals in those days. John was sales manager for Air India so we made a lot of multi course curry dinners, but I also ventured into the world of gourmet. I even started one dinner with a souffle, according to my diary. Did I ever know how to make souffles? I certainly don't now. And how did I have the time with little children?

Somehow I managed it and I don't remember finding it overwelming. Yet today an invitation to a dinner party at someone's house is rare. It's too stressful, too much trouble. It's easier to invite friends for drinks or to meet at a restaurant. Or not get together at all. We socialize much less. We're all too busy. We just don't cook. I know several people who have never used their kitchens.

Isn't that sad? Does this mean that we have fewer friends these days? Following yesterday's blog, has technology taken the place of friends and entertaining? So do share with me... do you still entertain? Do you still like to cook? Please tell me we're not heading into a world of isolation in our own techno cubicles.


  1. Your story sounds so like mine right down to living in the same house since 1980. We too used to have dinner parties, at least once a week, for the sheer pleasure of it all, only my husband coked while I took on the role of sous chef while minding the then little children.

    Now as you say, if we dine socially it's usually in a restaurant.

    I did not realise till now that the meals-at-home-with-guests trend is slipping away. And yes I spend far more time on the computer these days and far less time socialising with real people.

  2. Since I'm the only female family member on either side who lives in town, I host the holiday meals, and have for more than 20 years.

    We have friends who have three homes, with staff at two of them, and we are often invited to one location for dinner parties. Sometimes we all pitch in to help; the last time I was handed a stack of namecards to hand letter (one of my talents) for the guests.

    It's my turn in a couple of weeks to offer hospitality to them, and to a couple they are hosting from Turkey. I'm sweatin' bullets, it's been quite a while since I've had a non-family evening like this!

  3. There's not necessarily a great level of formality to it, but my partner and I host a small dinner party perhaps once every six weeks, and probably are guests at one on about the same frequency.

    Now these are often Maine style dinner parties, to be sure. In January we had eight guests and because it was winter, the menu was built around soups - smoked trout and corn chowder, white bean, kale and sausage soup, gingered butternut squash soup.

    Sometimes we offer more elegant fare, or even do a collaborative cooking thing. (The Food Network inspires us all . . .)

    In the summer, we host cookouts on our deck. It's not that the Portland area lacks for great restaurant opportunities, but there is something wonderful about entertaining at home. The relaxation level (for everyone but the hostesses) is greater, I think.

  4. I don't mind entertaining a few friends, but since I'm a stay-at-home mom that hangs out with other stay-at-home moms, we prefer to socialize outside of the home, so we don't have to cook or clean.

    In the past, my husband who works for a global company will invite over single guys visiting from other countries. They appreciate the family atmosphere and home cooked meals.

  5. We do entertain at home though I would never try a souffle! Can't believe you did that Rhys--and kept a diary to record it...

    My favorite entertaining is a supper club we belong to with 5 other couples. It rotates among the houses and the hosts make the main course and everyone else brings another course. So it's not too stressful and always fun!

    Karen and Brenda, we're standing by for our invitations!

  6. Like you, Rhys, I used to host lots of dinner parties for the fun of it. We've moved so much the people we'd invite aren't close enough friends for me mess up in front of them. It's probably not true but if I fed them over cooked fish, they might not want to be my friend.

  7. When we first were married (and living in a three room apartment in a two-flat)we did a weekly Monday dinner with one of Chuck's USAF pals and his fiance. We alternated of course,one week her apartment, next week ours. I can't tell you what we ate, but as after-dinner entertainment we traveled over to the UI campus for beer at Treno's and pinball machines!
    As time went on, my memories center mostly around the buffets our friends had on Friday nights. Simple food, but good company.
    These days, Chuck and I are lucky to eat together once or twice a week and iuf we 'entertain', it's usually meeting people for dinner. I miss the cooking, but not the cleanup :o) And I never had the courage to try a souffle.

  8. We used to have dinner and bridge parties all the time. Now it seems both dinner and bridge are going out of fashion. Still, whenever I can get together a group for cards, I offer to cook dinner and go all out with homemade pasta, etc. (although not souffles). Guess I'm afraid I'll forget how to cook something other than a frozen dinner.

  9. I do still cook (everyday, actually); however, I find I cook differently. Instead of huge, fancy dinners for 8, I now do dinners for 9 with usually two or three courses. For instance, for my youngest son’s birthday I invited everyone for antipasti, bread, and cherries jubilee for dessert. I did this for three reasons: first and foremost, ease for my arthritic body, second for ease of serving, and finally, I find we are all eating less food.

    Now my antipasto consists of greens, tomatoes, onions, Swiss and provolone cheese, Genoa salami, ham, pepperoni, black and green olives, and roasted peppers so it is a meal in itself. Also, the kids all love it. The cherries jubilee was as special treat for the birthday boy. I usually do make my own birthday cakes. Why? Taste.

    Serving like this also makes clean up easier since you only use the dishes needed rather than setting a whole table. I no longer use the fine china, I stick to Corelle that can be put in the dishwasher.

    It’s sad. Sometimes I miss the elegance, but when you get older and infirmed, you have to adapt.

  10. So funny you bring this up. I NEVER COOK NOW> I used to be all about souffles, exactly, and elaborate dishes and flowers and favors and wonderful exotic and sumptuous dinner parties with lots of forks and glasses.

    I had a dinner party diary, too, where I kept track of who was there and what I served and how it worked and cooking tips and what the flowers were.

    Now? HA! Forget it.

  11. Just discovered this blog via Lesa Holstine and am really enjoying it. We cooked three out of four nights when our grandsons (9 and 12) were here for spring break. The first night I knew we 'd be eating late (swimming was a priority for the boys) so I'd fixed a casserole of penne pasta, ground beef and spaghetti sauce and lots of cheese that I could heat up while everyone was changing. It was a big hit with the boys - they named it "The stuff that Ben loves."

  12. Sometimes I wonder if I am living my life backwards. In my mid 50's and single, I cook for myself all the time. every day. full meals usually. meat and veges at the least. I have also found that as I age, I get more and more daring when cooking. Last night, wanting to make the chicken and spices more "juicy" I opened the fridge and grabbed the OJ. I was yummy esp after dashing it with some chili powder! I make it up as I go along. It may not look great, but always tastes yummy. NOW, if I could get someone to clean the kitchen for me after! I know many who eat out every single meal and then wonder why their cholesterol is thru the roof and their waist keeps growing. I am one of the few people I know who cooks every day and even live and eat alone most days. btw, I was never taught to cook when I was growing up. needing to save money years ago was my incentive.