My sister once said: “I never know where you are in the world but I know you are eating good cheese.” I took this as a great compliment, and it was more or less true. I love stinky cheeses– the stinkier the better–, and Zilla and I traveled whenever we could. Until we decided to settle down and try to get pregnant.

Well, last week I decided that that silver lining you are always hearing about is the foil wrapper on Stilton Cheese. For the first time in a year I knew I wasn’t pregnant. I could eat anything I wanted. I ate raw eggs. Cured meats. I cooked my beef rare.  And man, we went to PFI and bought some stinky unpasteurized cheeses. I went to town!

Case of Cheese

I last went to PFI about a month ago.  I was preparing a birthday dinner for our friend S. He was turning 40.

Five years ago, I cooked S’s 35th birthday. It was one of my first official catering gigs. The first course—of twelve–was a selection of oysters –Virginicas, Kumomotos, Totten Inslets. I ate one before everyone arrived, while I was shucking. By the time I set the second course on the table I was running for bathroom.  There were fifteen guests and ten courses to go and I was sick. Never mind about me, I was just terrified it would happen to someone else.

Zilla took over cooking for a while until we were sure I was better. Then course after course, we waited. I brought out the vitello tonnato and waited, the sorrel soup and waited, the sardine, the quail…  I was the only one. With each course the table got quiet except for full happy sounds.


S plans ahead. He asked us last year if we would cook for his 40th. When S was 35 he lived in Seattle. But a few years ago he moved to Hong Kong. Maybe he’d come to Seattle, he said, and celebrate with old friends here, or maybe do it in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong! I wanted to go to Hong Kong! How I could possibly say no to Hong Kong? But how could I possibly cook in an unknown kitchen?

I stayed up nights, wondering how to pack ingredients and pans.

Napkins and Cherry Blossoms

To my relief—because I never could have said no–S settled on Seattle and we began menu planning in earnest. He suggested we simply redo the previous menu. I declined, specifically, to serve anything with oysters.  Instead, we decided on a Spanish/Portuguese theme.  Delicious!

Sometimes things don’t go quite right the first time, but sometimes they go perfectly, exactly as planned. S invited fifteen guests, I served forty tastes for his 40 years, and we had no disasters, just a really fun, really delicious, filling celebration.

Which is what I love most about S: he takes the time to celebrate. I forget sometimes. And I think it’s important to remember that things really are pretty good.

After the feast

(all the pictures are before and after, because it the middle I had to cook!)

11 thoughts on “Celebrate

  1. Dear Beth, I have your website saved in my bookmarks and today I clicked on it while I savored my morning coffee. What a surprise to read about your Spanish/Portuguese theme and your amazing culinary skills! (really? 40 tastings!?? wow).
    Hope you and Zilla are doing well and I want to give you advance warning (3 year advance) that I would love to have you be the star chef on my 40th.
    Évora misses you guys, and please drop by if you are ever in the vicinity.
    Also – please share what the 40 tastings were!

    Nina & Peter

    1. Hi Nina, Peter,

      So good to hear from you! I would absolutely love to cook for your birthday. Really. Though it is a little intimidating–Evora is where I go to eat great food. I’m not sure if I could compete.

      So the 40 tastes: about 15 were different wines, and then a few more were after dinner liquors. We started with blood sausage, then octopus, then chicken livers in piri-piri, then a tiny demitasse cup of roasted carrot soup, then bacalou poached in olive oil with endive and black olives, then quince roasted lamb shoulder and migas and then toasts with bitter chocolate and Seville marmalade, then Zilla made really excellent Patis de nata. It took him weeks (and I gained a few pounds) but he finally got them right.

      In all seriousness, though, Zilla and I have been talking about coming back, spend some time with you and then some time at the beach…When is the best time of year? So far we’ve always visited late October…

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