Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center
You’ve now been sheltering in place for two weeks now, maybe more. You’re following all the Covid-19 protocols: washing your hands, wiping down contaminated surfaces, staying 6 feet away from everyone, coughing into your sleeve. With luck, you’ve even scored that 24-pack of dearer-than-gold toilet paper. What now?
Have a Dinner Party!
Making a nice dinner with fancy trappings can be easier than you think. I gave a formal dinner last Friday, just Dad and I. Take it from a party planner forced into social isolation: every bit of celebration you can create is a good thing. Here are some tips on hosting your own private party.
1. Setting the Table. Have a tablecloth or linen napkins? Now is the time to use them. Got special china or crystal that you only get out for holidays? Get it out now! And most important: light the candles. Eating alone off paper plates on a card table can be elegant as long as you eat by candlelight. My mother hated to cook, so we seldom had fancy food. But we would routinely set the table and lit candles even if dinner was hot dogs.
2. Menu. I’ve always been a believer in looking for recipes to match what I’ve got on hand rather than shopping for ingredients I don’t have. Here’s my menu from Friday:
Starter: Soup. Basic recipe: sauté vegetables, add seasoning, simmer in liquid, puree, eat. I used Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) and potato, seasoning with garlic, cinnamon, and ginger. We garnished our soup with a drizzle of Bourbon (a trick I learned dining at the Drake Hotel in Chicago). It adds instant festivity to winter squash soups.
Main course: Spaghetti with Canned Tuna. This has been a staple of mine for years – adapted from a recipe in a 1980s pasta cookbook. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a frying pan. Add drained tuna (approximately one can per person served), along with chopped garlic, chili flakes or paprika, salt and pepper. Sauté on medium low heat so it warms but doesn’t brown. Just before serving, add juice of one lemon. Toss with spaghetti and a little olive oil or butter. Add sautéed chopped vegetables if you like.
Dessert: Pecan Pie. I chose that because it’s Dad’s favorite and I had all the ingredients. Really, anything from fruit to cheese to sweets works fine. Just something to round out the meal, along with a cup of coffee, tea, or dessert wine.
3. Dress and Drink. Someone once told me the secret of a successful party is that the invite lets the guests “know what they will be wearing, and what they will be drinking.” If you’re hosting a Hawaiian Luau, the guests know to dress tropical and that they will be drinking something with pineapple in it. For a formal dinner, tuxedos, long gowns, sparking jewelry and sparkling wine are traditional. Tux not back from the cleaners? No long gowns in the closet? Improvise. Just make sure you have real shoes on, and not just your fuzzy slippers.
Most of all – have fun!