Monday, October 26, 2009

An oversight of an evening

We threw our first dinner party this Saturday.

Oh, dinner party, such a fancy term, smacking of long candles, crystal glassware, elaborate courses. Perhaps, for those a bit less formal, the immediate imagination still brings up basics such as tablecloths and enough chairs for everyone eating.

Ours had none of that, not even matching glasses, or enough of the same type of plates to go around. What we had, instead, was a mismatch of foods and flatware and languages, a sofa-turned-two-seats-at-the-table, seven liters of beer and four bottles of wine, and a hell of a good time.

The great thing about dinner parties in Buenos Aires is that people eat late here. Like, 8 pm is the earliest most places open for dinner, and it's not unusual to see little kids running around in restaurants at 1 am. When I was studying abroad here, oh way back when, I once asked my host-lady to have dinner at seven. She laughed and said, "Oh, just like the country folk!"

So, why is this great for you, throwing a dinner party? It means that you can wake up at 6.40 pm from a late and way too long nap, say "Shit!", go to the grocery store and pick up all your necessities, shower at eight, blow dry your hair at eight twenty, and not even finish putting away all the groceries when your first guests ring the doorbell. By nine, you are sitting at a table with a couple of bottles of beer and wine, and a lovely, artisan cutting board heavy with salami and olives and cheese, nibbling and chatting and all of that, just like you would be doing had you been a much better planner and experienced host.

I love those old memoirs, where people keep list of their menus, each line designating a course. I'm speaking of fancy recordings of Junior League balls, of wedding cards, of the ones thrown in, occasionally, in Alexandre Dumas' Dictionary of Cuisine. Such menus are brilliant keys into social and economic history, if you keep in mind the author and the time. They also, inevitably, make me hungry.

So, for posterity, I give you an oversight of an evening:

Picada (black and green olives, fontina, provolone, and
blue cheese, pate de foie, roasted garlic, variety of cured meats)

Empanadas de morcilla (blood sausage, apple, onion, parsley)
Fideos con salsa de limón (linguine with lemon and cream sauce)
Pan artisanal con aceite de oliva (artisanal bread with spiced olive oil)
Torta de crema y frutilla (crustless whipped cream cake with strawberries)
Mandarinas y chocolate (mandarin oranges and dark chocolate)

Isn't that fun?

I had other things planned, too, like a big green salad and a fig tart and coconut macaroons, but those fell by the wayside as the night stretched out and more bottles were opened. I chopped onions and apples while Danny and Augustín told each other bad jokes in Argentine-Colombian-Puerto Rican Spanish. Bennett and Gimena took cigarette breaks, leaning out of our living room window, smoke going out and cool air coming in. Nacho came later, and Bennett cried laughing as Nacho told us all about Mongolito ("Little Mongoloid"), the Argentine version of E.T. We were well-fed, but most of all we were in good company. Which is probably the most important part of a dinner party, even more important than proper seating.

The only bad turn of the evening, really, was when I was throwing together the sauce for the linguine. At that point, I'd had a little too much beer, and a lot too much wine, and was getting a little sloppy in the kitchen. As I pulled the cream out of the refrigerator, I knocked over an open bag of olives* and spilled its contents all over the place. I cursed, something like "Aceitunas de mierda!" ("Olives of shit!)** What bothered me wasn't so much the spilled olives, as the fact that I'd just given my refrigerator a healthy, hour-long cleanse two days earlier. The next day, I spent twenty minutes on my knees, cleaning the shelves and walls yet again, albiet in a good mood. I thought about why I was happy, as I scrubbed and scrubbed. I think it's because, had this been me a few years earlier, I would have ignored the mess and hoped that someone, real or perhaps some great god of household fairies, would come along and clean up my mistake. Instead, I was being a very responsible adult, even if only in the form of fixing a little spill -- I liked the thought of refrigerator cleaning as being a symbol of Growing Up.


*It's weird to me, how the all the condiments are available in bags here. And olives are, in Argentina, most definitely a condiment. They go on, and in, almost everything.

**This is a common way to curse in castellano, and is applicable to almost anything: "_________ de mierda!" Try it! It's a lot of fun. It cheers me up just to say it, which is more than I can say for any curse in English.

1 comment:

  1. 2 surpsises. Bennett smokes - does his dad know and so that is what my grandmother was saying all those years. : )
    Makes my heart smile to think of what a great time you had.