I'm traumatized. And short-circuited. For the first time ever in my cooking and entertaining life, I am at a complete and utter loss.
Kellie: "Call the post, 'Multiplication.' Like how x pounds of chicken times y pounds of meat times 50 people equals near disaster."
Greg: "Write the factual events."
1 tent. Five tables. Forty chairs. Ten pounds of chicken. Three pounds of ground pork. Six pounds of flank steak. Four pounds of salmon. Eight pounds of pasta. One pound of pesto. One pound cake with cream cheese frosting. Two pumpkin cheesecakes. Fifty chocolate mousse and lemon mousse tarts. Forty chocolate dipped strawberries. Four cases of beer, twelve bottles of wine. Forty confirmed guests (the delay to Sunday cost us ten guests) and enough food to accomodate several more. One lunatic, ably assisted by two long-suffering friends.
Kellie: "Multiplication. So many meanings. Being so close to Easter, the bunny theme is appropriate. Given how people multiplied last night."
Greg: "Remember the end scene in 'Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit' where they populate the bunnies on the estate and rabbits start popping up all over the place?"
The horror. The horror.
The rented tent and the tables on the lawn look great. I've decided I want to own a tent because it really sets the mood for a festive event. It also keeps people outside, on the damn lawn, and not wandering inside through my house when I'm prepping and cooking.
Everything is ready to go. I'm pretty confident that I'll be able enjoy the party because I've got everything planned to the minute.
Alas. Hubby has remarked more than once: "No plan survives first contact."
Kellie shows up to help me. I send her outside to put tablecloths and votives on the tables.
"You crazy person! You have tablecloths for rented tables? Did you make them? Weave the cloth?"
"No...I didn't have time."
She shakes her head and goes off to set the tables.
Amanda calls; her husband has just left for his new post and she's down so I ask her to come over and join the party.
"Six o'clock," I tell her.
She decides to come early and help me. Like me, she's unable to resist the lure of cooking for others.
Kellie comes back in. "What are we doing for napkins?"
"Oh, I sewed some last night -- "
I smirk and hand her a stack of paper napkins.
We started cooking in earnest around 4:30, getting appetizers ready. I finished pounding chicken breasts into a flat, uniform style (for faster and more even cooking) with my handy-dandy All Clad pot, swearing in between every two or three whacks and yelling, "I need a mallet!"
The first guest arrives on time at 6:00. We're "Go." Chicken breasts are pre-cooked on the grill pan, then placed in a warm chafing dish with Marsala and mushroom cream sauce. Flank steaks are quickly seared and sliced. The salmon dishes are the easiest: in and out of the oven with their marinade in 12 minutes. The pasta salads go out along with a small green salad. By 6:30 the line forms at the buffet table.
Kellie and I turn off our respective burners. Amanda puts aside her cutting board. The food is out on the patio table and people have made their way around the buffet. Everyone's sitting and eating at the tables under the tent. It's still light out, and cool, perfect outdoor party weather. I almost feel like I've finally managed to throw a grown up party -- everything looks pulled together. No weird last minute emergencies. The three of us are done cooking and ready to walk out for a plate of our own and a seat under the tent.
Eighteen people show up on the lawn unexpectedly.
Hubby told me that he had invited extra people, which was fine since I had accounted for an extra ten in food prep. However, they in turn invited others to join and no one tells me. I was expecting an additional nine; not eighteen. And then the ultimate nightmare reveals itself to me: there isn't enough food on the buffet.
The staggering horror sets in. The burners go back on and the chopping begins again in earnest. There's enough food on the table to cover some of the new guests. But we need more dishes. Kellie mans the range grill and we throw on more chicken and flank steak. Amanda makes a caprese salad and denudes the remainder of the indoor basil plant. I prep to make a linguine with white clam sauce because it's (1) filling to make up for lack of other items which have already been consumed; (2) I have all the ingredients at hand; and (3) it's fast.
We cook and cook and cook. Some people, lacking a distinct sense of timing, come in to make requests and inquiries. I think to myself, "I am cooking! I am cooking! Go away! I can't give you recipes right now!"
A dear (unsuspecting) friend, comes into the house with a request from one of the other guests. "He wants ketchup, mustard and chopped onions."
"Really?" I respond without breaking stride, hot pan hitting the burner. "Tell him to go f#$& himself."
Blessedly, my friend laughs. "I'll tell him."
Those who come in to thank us for the food, to offer help, or to say hello are much more welcome.
Everything is out on the table including desserts. Because we hadn't planned to cook for so many people, dinner moved right on into dessert making.
When it's all over, Kellie, Amanda and I simply stare at each other, survivors of a collective trauma none of us can discuss quite yet. We speak in hushed tones, as if we have encountered an unspeakable evil whose name cannot be mentioned. Amanda leaves to take care of her dogs. Kellie and I try to grab some private time under the tent with a plate of linguine. We have no interest in talking to anyone. We just want to eat and share our mutual psychic pain. The tent under which we are sitting is apropos though more in the circus sense than the festive sense.
Then I survey the scene before me: people gathered around the buffet table, laughing and talking, obviously enjoying themselves. The whole point of the party was to introduce old team members to new team members and to give everyone a place to relax after a long day of practice. Friends I get to see once a year or every few years stop by to say hello and to give me a hug. It's a relaxed scene. Wasn't this what we intended?
Kellie: "I think this was very successful."
More people, more fun. Multiplication. Good times.
But I am still traumatized.