Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feeding thirty at forty for more than fifty.

Although it seemed I was organised, little things came to take up my time; they have a way of sneaking up on you, unannounced, wanting immediate attention and becoming silently but stealthily all consuming. Little things are in fact, humongous things in disguise.

With this in mind, my party and the weekend celebrations were wonderful, if not entirely to plan. Fortunately, ever since my wedding when I was but a mere slip of a lass at 26, I learned the lifelong lesson that "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley" translation: the best laid plans of the big and the small can go awry, no matter what you do. It was a great wedding but things went awry ; things I couldn't change, things I couldn't know; I went with the flow as I realised quickly that that which cannot be changed must be accepted. Plus nobody would ever tolerate a braying, bridezilla beastie in my family and they'd soon begin plying me with whisky.

Having spent weeks on the children's rooms, my plan was to spend another few weeks on some home improvements, painting and organising, in time for the party and Christmas, as is the way of women and men everywhere. I wanted the house fresh, spotless and myself rested, having spent a leisurely few days cooking, with possibly some light dusting and a polish the day before. Of course, this was before swine flu hit me like a brick wall and floored me for several weeks, but still, I recovered well enough to continue.

That's when the little things came; a day off school here and there as the children became ill, unexpected visitors. A leak, a break down, a mistake and a job. All these things led to things going ever so slightly not to plan. Thursday, my 40th birthday, I let it all go and was woken to tea in bed, flowers, gifts and was taken for breakfast by Shona where I consumed pastries and lovely coffee before heading to the spa for my massage. My sis and I floated out of our treatment rooms, happy and relaxed as we got ready to go to The Dining Room on Bath Street for lunch.

Susan and I had the pate starter while Louise, Susan's friend went for the soup. I had expertly cooked salmon with a sweet chilli dressing but still looked longingly at the chicken with black pudding mash on the girl's plates until Susan took pity and gave me some to taste. Both the salmon and chicken were lovely and was washed down by a nice bottle of the house white.

Susan and Louise headed to the hotel as they'd booked rooms for the night because her party was being held there. I wandered round a few shops on my way to the train station, where I was to find myself stuck for ages due to a random flower petal hovering over the line or somesuch nonsense but the wine had had a pleasant, soporific effect and I sat staring at the pigeons until the train eventually arrived.

The entire family, including my mum, father in law, big sis, Brian and the kids all went to Di Maggios for pasta and pizza before heading over to Susan's party. The DJ played some good old classics and the place was packed with those helping her to celebrate. We stayed for a while, leaving early for a party but late for the kids and headed home, contented and tired.

The Friday, despite my best intentions, more Little Things came and we arrived at our friend's, Ricky and Irene's house late for the planned fireworks party. We stayed only a few hours but despite the amount of things I wanted to get done on my return, I was too tired and conked out at the sight of my lovely, beautiful bed.

We worked hard all Saturday and the house was transformed into a mellow, candlelit abode with flowers everywhere, and the smell of spices, curry and mint filling the street. As everyone arrived, we hadn't quite finished making all the cocktails although there was a table full of pink, green and yellow drinks. We calmly answered the door and greeted our lovely guests with hugs, drinks and chat, then frantically ran to the kitchen to make more French Martinis, Mojitos and Champagne cocktails. The table was laden with spicy onions, mango dips, poppadums, spicy almonds, chilli snacks, pickles and rice crackers.

The pakora-chicken which had been marinated in yoghurt and spices, mushroom and potato was placed in the oven and the onion bhajis too. I had made a yoghurt dip to accompany them and it looked delicious. By the time I went to try some, it was all gone, surely a good sign; this made me happy and I hope it was nice. As I went to heat up the curries, I suddenly realised something as I searched for my bread: I had missed out an entire afternoon of preparation and it slowly donned on me that I had crossed it off the list, in my tired state on Friday night and that, in fact, there was things still to do.

After the initial cold shiver from my head to my toes, I thought about it for a moment to understand what had not been done; no bread...I was to cook paratha, poori and peshwari naan...I hadn't finished my lamb sauce although the lamb was cooked and I hadn't even tasted the korma. The chicken stew was refrigerated before cooking had been finished and my chickpea stew was nowhere to be found. This was a freakin disaster! I took a few deep breathes and spoke to Brian:
Him: "There is plenty of food; do you have time to cook at least the bread now?"
Me: "...yes....no"
Him: "Is there rice?"
Me: "Yes, lots"
Him: "Then we're fine".

With that, I served two large bowls of rice, lamb curry, which had enough lamb in it to feed a small army, what with four legs of lamb being cooked, with tasty enough sauce, despite it not being finished to my liking, tender chicken korma, again, it was finished by the time I got to the table which I was again happy about because I can assume it was good, having never made it before, Rajasthani chicken, baked after marinading twice and a nice vegetable curry with my own sauce served with mushrooms, courgettes, onions and homemade muttar paneer (cheese).

The tikka bites, chicken stew, chickpea stew with dumplings, breads and tomato and cucumber salad did not get served. The best laid schemes o' mice and men....

Once the food was served, I poured a large glass of champagne and settled in with my friends to talk, laugh and enjoy their company. A good time was had by all. I had managed to prepare fruit petit fours; strawberries, raspberries and tangerine slices dipped in chocolate, some with nuts or coconut in little petit four cases for a wee dessert before moving on to Sam's amazing birthday cake which she had made for me.

The moral of this tale: don't try to make this amount of food a few days before; cook it, freeze it and leave it weeks before, bringing from the freezer 36 hours before serving. Keep one day...the day before...entirely free to cook those things which are better fresh; the dips, the onions, the bread. Don't look at lists whilst tired. When asked to attend a party the day before your own, just say no. When it goes wrong, don't say too much after your initial outburst of "where the HELL IS THE BREAD?!?" and smile and enjoy because, as I learned many years ago, what you can't change, you just need to accept. Plus none of my friends would have tolerated my whining and would have force fed me champagne to shut me up.

Some of the beautiful flowers I received

I do have to add that the Sunday was total bliss; nursing a little hangover, I lay on the couch napping ,watching The Wizard of Oz with the kids, Brian waking me from my various slumbers with bacon rolls, Lucozade and Irn Bru, mugs of tea and chocolate. When ready, I opened my beautiful, wonderful gifts and Brian pottered about all day, cleaning up the mess. It was like Boxing Day; Christmas is wonderful but Boxing Day is for the mums.

Unfortunately, not a lot of pics were taken of the food, despite me reminding the photographers of my food blog...yes, you! But still....

All recipes to follow, including the elusive French Onion Soup; a picture, just to tease.


confused homemaker said...

Looks like it was a good time, the pictures that were taken both of food & people enjoying good company are great!

Lee the Hot Flash Queen said...

I want that soup recipe

Protege said...

Look at all those people and lovely food! And a cake! What a way to leave the thirty something decade.;)
It seems to have been a great success and worth all your effort.;)

Grannymar said...

Sounds like a fun busy time and worth waiting 40 years for. Welcome back.

ModernMom said...

Looks like a great time was had by all! Congrats!

Peanut-Butter Kitty said...

Happy 40th Birthday. Food looks wonderful. Everyone looks like they are having a great time. Enjoyed the pictures.

Judy Harper said...

The pictures show fun by one and all. The names of the food you mentioned made me hungry! The pictures of the food made me even hungrier! I'm glad you had a happy 40th!

Unknown Mami said...

Everyone in the pics looks happy and full.

mise said...

I'd have panicked and run away if I was cooking. Well done! And look at all those happy people. I guess they too are waiting for the French Onion Soup recipe.

gaelikaa said...

Seems your birthday went well! Good! You seem to be good at cooking Indian food too! I must come to you for a few helpful hints!

American in Norway said...

Well done! We didn't get too many pictures...which is a big bummer after all of the work that went to it... Looks like you had an AWESOME b day... Happy Beleated birthday! : )

American in Norway said...

BELATED... its still early here... (ok, not really I am just a Dumb a$$)

Anonymous said...

Wow! Sounds amazingly fab. Fi x
PS I can't compete in any way but if you fancy slumming it round at Slummy Mum's for a few too many glasses of vino at 9pm tomorrow (Thurs) then i'd be delighted to see you. Have asked Jo Yo and that bendy freak Em too! Neither may make it but I'm sure we won't be lost for chat! x

Helen McGinn said...

Thank you all, twas great but good to be back to normal.
Gaelikaa, I try but I'm sure the tips should be the other way around!
Anonymous Fi, sounds grand! I'm sure we could both talk the hind legs of a donkey if we put our minds to it.... ;O)

angelina la dawn said...

sadly, i never cook. but your blog is quite inspiring! i shall make more of an effort :)

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