I have a confession–I have advanced dinner party delusion syndrome. ADPDS affects many in my age group, especially those that have cable and have watched anything on the Cooking Channel. ADPDS is when you have unrealistic expectations for what your home kitchen can accommodate and how many people are truly comfortable in your house.
I have always loved entertaining. I have a standing watch party for the Oscars every year. I love hosting cocktail parties, which quickly become wine parties because we are all too lazy to mix anything. I love the minutiae, the planning, the searching for the perfect recipe that will wow my guests.
My problem is realizing and coming to terms with the fact that I live in a single family home with an open, but modest, floor plan. There have been many occasions where I truly believed with all my heart that I can fit 20 people around a table in my dining room/living room/hallway. Comfortably. I’m lying to myself.
My first go at this came from my desire to make porchetta for a harvest party. Porchetta is a very involved recipe, based on the Italian ritual of slaughtering a pig, removing the innards and then stuffing the good bits back in and roasting it over an open fire. My version consisted of a pork tenderloin wrapped in a layer of pork belly and then wrapped with the pork skin, all held together with butcher’s twine, spices and prayer.
Making porchetta takes several days worth of work, as you have to brine the meat, then dry it thoroughly and then roast it for several hours. For me, this involved rousing my sleeping husband from his warm bed at 6 a.m. so that he could hold together the layers of meat so that I could wrap it in twine. Strangely, wrestling 20 pounds of pork proved to be too much for me. He was less than thrilled.
But the finished product was worth it. The skin was crispy, the belly oozing with unctuous fat, the tenderloin inside tender and juicy. It was enough to feed all 15 people that I had squeezed around all the tables that we own. And because it was so tender, using a knife wasn’t a huge issue, which was good because no one could really move their arms because they were squeezed in so tight.
This is just one example. There was the paella party that I had planned on seating people outside for and thus invited 20 adults and all their children. It started raining. We had to move it all inside and eat in shifts. There have been Christmas parties where friends that have known each other for years stand around awkwardly because I’ve loaded every possible surface with food but run out of chairs.
But I’m slowly learning my lesson. I’m scaling back. I’m not inviting everyone to every party. Sometimes, a few close friends that can really enjoy themselves fills the room with just as much joy as a house full. Tonight is a great example. I have six people coming over to celebrate my friend Ionut’s birthday. We will eat Romanian food, recipes from his home country, drink good wine and all be able to hear each other. We will have a luxurious amount of elbow room. Everyone will laugh and go home happy and I will rest easy knowing that I’ve finally learned the necessary skill of knowing what I can handle.