Friday, February 20, 2009

Sunday Dinner Without My Family



My friends Lisa and Louis recently invited me to Sunday dinner at their home and I was incredibly excited about the prospect of dining with good friends and family, and even meeting a few new and potentially interesting people. Lisa is (mostly) vegan these days, but quite a good cook, and she'd offered to make mac n' cheese for the kids, so the menu seemed promising for all concerned. Sadly, when the day arrived, my 2 year old daughter had come down with the flu and my hopes for a lovely Sunday dinner were dashed... until my dear husband suggested that I go by myself.

I immediately rejected the idea. It was ridiculous. What was the point of having Sunday dinner without my family? Until I realized that Lisa and Louis are only one step away from family to me. I'd known them both for years and I literally couldn't remember the last time I'd seen them. (Trust me. I tried.) Lisa and I met Louis at a mutual friend's party and I take secret pleasure in knowing that I was a witness to their first encounter, but that's another story. And as my husband pointed out, it had been a long time since I had left the house by myself and been in the company of adults. So in spite of my misgivings, and with no small amount of guilt about leaving my husband in charge of a sullen 17 year old and a puking toddler, I went.

The meal and the company were both great. I felt a little wistful watching the very sweet 18 month old daughter of two of the other guests. (She reminded me of my own daughter... when she wasn't throwing up, anyway.) But I soon got into the swing of things and realized I was lucky to be out of the house. Lucky to be eating such delicious food. And lucky to be having interesting conversation with people whose company I genuinely enjoyed.

Lisa and Louis did it up right. They invited the number of guests their table could comfortably fit, including a nice mix of people, some of whom knew each other and some who didn't, but all with much in common. Art. Food. A train-wreck kind of obsession with the octuplet mom story. And they served great food, which they didn't seem to stress over too much. They bought really juicy roasted chicken from their local farmer's market. (And we discussed the benefits of having a ready-made main course for Sunday dinner. A good tip to keep in mind for future events.) Lisa made a classic home-style mac n' cheese on her first attempt (not a vegan version, I'm happy to say) and the greens were spectacular. Louis is Italian, so this was no surprise. Dinner finished off with really juicy oranges, which are in season now, and chocolate chip cookies generously sprinkled with coarse sea salt. (A New York Times recipe, if I remember correctly.)

Guests came bearing gifts... pickled Meyer lemons, homemade chicken stock, and sweet pickles (my offering), all of which were swiftly hidden away in the kitchen by our host. More power to him, I say. And we all went home with to-go packages. I got a great one, with an extra large stash of chocolate chip cookies. These pleased my husband and stepson to no end. Like Lisa, they believe that all "real" dessert must involve chocolate.

I'm getting hungry as I write this post and since I'm still recovering from the flu I eventually got from my daughter, this is no small compliment. I hope Lisa and Louis continue to host monthly Sunday dinners as the say they plan to do. And I hope they'll invite me over again, with or without my family.