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