Monday, May 18, 2009

not martha

I tried to do a week in review on Friday but it quickly devolved into a far more depressing therapy session than it was meant to be so I scrapped it. I had some pretty high hopes that my weekend would be full of amazing recipes I'd be able to share throughout the week with you. Unfortunately, the Friday night therapy didn't entirely soothe my subconscious and it sought vengence on me in other ways.


Saturday afternoon I was slated to co-host a bridal shower. My only role was food. I ordered all my groceries online and had an ambitious menu for an afternoon girly tea party all ready to roll. I felt confident in the timing of it all because the shower wasn't slated to begin until 3 pm. All the time in the world to create an original cupcake, make two types of tea sandwiches, a fancy new tomato and watermelon salad I discovered, scones and ginger hibiscus iced tea and possibly some macarons . . . right? Well, maybe not the macarons. That was a bit over the top, but I was completely up to the rest of it. Especially since my co-hosts (that sounds like we are on some sort of television show or something) were coming over to assist at 1 pm. So much time! I mean, on Friday I thought this sounded like so much time I could even squeeze in a run in the morning . . . okay, maybe not, but the thought did cross my mind.

That is, the thought crossed my mind before I was forced to add: shop for gift to my Saturday itinerary. You see, way back on last Monday I had this nagging little thought that I should jump online and order some pretty little filmy thing for the bride-to-be. But the thought never came at a convenient time and suddenly Thursday was staring me in the face and I knew the gift would require an actual trip to a store. I don't like stores. They are full of things that distract me by telling me to buy them for myself. Plus, to get to these stores I have to push through crowds of tourists on Fifth Avenue. And, on this particular day, there was a threat of rain. Ugh. But I went anyway. I went to Anthropologie which, in the past, has always had some pretty lingerie choices. But on that particular day? Nothing. I searched and searched and searched but walked out empty-handed. Actually, I walked out with a book of love quotes I considered giving instead but it didn't seem to suit her so I vowed to go to trusty Victoria's Secret on Friday.

But on Friday work kept me glued to my desk until 1:30 and even then I only had a few minutes to run out for a sandwich to bring back to my desk. Before I knew it, it was after 6 and I thought I could finish up just a few more things and then run to the store. But a few more minutes turned into more than an hour and I realized I needed to run up the street to VS and come back to work. Friday was the most perfect, beautiful day. I left my office just before 8 and stopped at the Gap on the off chance that Gap Body had anything. I found something pretty but it wasn't very . . . bridal. So I continued up the street a few blocks, past Madison to the closest VS. Closed. What? Why would a store close at 8 pm? Argh. Now what? I returned to 5th Avenue with the hope of purchasing a certain delicious candle I love from Henri Bendell's as Plan B to go with the love quotes. The door was open but when I started toward it a man bellowed "WE'RE CLOSED!" at me. He was very aggressive about it. Dejected and discouraged I returned to my office for a couple more hours of work. I briefly considered mailing a late present but decided that was lame so I decided I would just take a 20 minute break in the morning to hop in a cab and head to the Lincoln Center VS.

Saturday morning my groceries were delivered around 8 and I got started with the cooking. I made lemon cupcakes, a lemon curd filling, a blueberry coulis and ganache and realized I was crazy to think I could go running or add macarons to the menu. I adapted. And when I was at a good stopping point (one at which I needed more eggs a couple of oranges and more watermelon), I hopped in a cab to 68th and Broadway - the approximate location of VS. Only, it wasn't there. I went to the grocery store across the street first before I worried too much thinking I had just remembered the wrong block for the store. But no, when I was back on the street I remembered where the store should be but in its place was . . . nothing. Absolutely nothing. The entire building is gone. Now what? Well, with my eggs and orange juice and oranges and watermelon in tow, I began traipsing the streets of the upper west side in search of lingerie.

I finally found a tiny little boutique that required me to ring the bell to get buzzed in where two sales girls stared me down from behind the counter as I searched the racks in the 4x5 space and declined their offer to try things on. I finally picked something and rushed back out to a cab. My 20 minute trip took an hour.

And I forgot my phone so I was worried the other girls had tried calling or had arrived early and I wasn't there. I was pushing close to one.

Here is something I know about myself and hosting. There are certain jobs I do not like to delegate. Sure, that means I often put more work on myself but I recognize that is a problem. Baking is one of those things. Except, on Saturday I had to start delegating or things would not get done. So I had one of the girls fill half my cupcakes with lemon curd and half with blueberry coulis. Then I had her cover them in ganache. I played no part in it other than the initial demonstration. I later hurriedly topped them with blueberry coulis whipped cream but couldn't tell which were filled with lemon and which were filled with blueberry so I abandonded my plan to top half with a blueberry and half with lemon zest. Argh.

More helpers arrived and there were more and more jobs to be done. Questions were flying at me and I felt . . . frenzied. No one wanted to make the decision about keeping the party in my apartment or holding it on the roof as originally planned. It had rained a lot in the morning and the sky was still gray and gloomy at that point despite the heavy humidity. I finally made the call - we'll stay in the apartment for food and go to the roof for presents.

At one point I delegated the tea sandwich making to another co-host who took the job and ran with it. She knew how to cut and slice and rummage through cupboards to find what she needed without peppering me with questions and distracting me from the 50 other last minute things that suddenly needed my attention - do you have scissors, tape, tablecloth, where does this go? how do we do xyz . . . . She saved me.

Oh, and the other reason I was frantic? Right before I passed off the tea-sandwich prep, I was pulling the balsamic vinegar and olive oil out of a cupboard to top off the salad. In the process, I knocked a brand new almost completely full bottle of sesame oil to the ground.

Yes, this is the third time I have had a catastrophic breakage incident in my kitchen far too recently. First, there was the spaghetti sauce jar, then a few weeks ago it was the bottle of vanilla, and now sesame oil. All three, the day after my cleaning lady came and two of the three, within an hour of expected guests arriving.

I nearly cried.

While I know the bride-to-be quite well, I only knew the two other hosts moderately. I have never really hung out with them and only know them from being in the same ward briefly a couple of years ago. The third girl who was there helping out I had never met previously. I don't think they knew what to do to help. I didn't know what to do. So they just moved into the living room to chit chat while I tried my best to clean up my now greasy with bits of tiny glass floor.

At that moment, I wanted to quit. I wanted to thank the others for their help but ask them to leave and tape a sign to my door indicating it was all cancelled. Mean, I know. But I have had a non-stop month and this little incident was just not helping.

But I pushed through it and just felt even further set back on my timing. The scones were done, the salad was done, the cupcakes were done, the tea sandwiches were underway but I had forgotten the ginger hibiscus tea. But there was no longer time. So I scratched that idea, ran to my storage unit for my punch bowl and just dumped a couple of cans of frozen limeade, some ginger ale and a pint of passionfruit sorbet in and called it good.

There were already guests arriving and there were still dishes piled up in the sink and the counter was barely visible from preparation debris. If my kitchen was a little more hidden, this wouldn't bother me so much. But my kitchen is not hidden - it is highly visible and the only thing I ever want to be doing when guests arrive is finishing the punch or a cheese plate or fruit platter or something simple and non-messy like that. I do not like having my food processor and several bowls and spoons and pans all piled up. While the sandwiches were being finished I stole a brief quiet moment in the bathroom. I lingered a little longer than necessary to right myself. I could not figure out why I felt so out of sorts and panicky. It felt like the whole thing was spinning out of control. When I walked back out, more guests were arriving and I realized everyone was . . . smiling. And the guest of honor - she was beaming. This party was not about me. I hurried into the kitchen, finished up the sandwiches and shoved everything into the dishwasher and cleaned off the counters.

The cupcakes did not have identifying garnish on them but guests seemed to enjoy guessing whether they would bite into lemon or blueberry.

The scones were not set up next to the extra blueberry whipped cream and coulis for topping and I completely forgot to set out the extra lemon curd. But guests ate all of the scones anyway and there wasn't much coulis left at the end of the party either.

There were probably around 30 guests crammed in my apartment with no room to sit for a large number of them. But no one seemed to mind standing as the blushing bride tried guessing what her groom-to-be had to say in response to a set of pre-posed questions.

There was very little food left as everyone pitched in to carry the sizeable stack of gifts to the roof for present opening and everyone seemed to enjoy the bright sunshine that broke out with the light breeze 40 flights above the city. It was there that I finally relaxed. Wooden deck and lounge chairs had been pulled into an oblong circle with the bride at the head. We were one chair short so I perched on the arms of two chairs pushed together and let my legs swing and the tension in my shoulders melt away. Someone ran back downstairs to retrieve the paper and pen to write down the gifts and I asked the bride for stories to entertain the group and captured a fantastic story of the couple's first kiss.

By the time it was over, I wasn't ready to have an empty house yet. I caught up with friends and took photos and posed in others. As the final guests made their exit I realized the food was all gone but for one lone cupcake and someone had cleaned the last of the dishes.

While this may have been my most frenetic start to a party, I was happy to see that it all worked so well for the guest of honor. I have never been quite so nervous/anxious/upset/frantic at the start of a party and now I understand that it really is something special that I can usually be calm and low-key when people start showing up with expectations of food. I do not think I would ever choose to host anything if all parties started as rough for me as this one did. On the other hand, the way this one ended makes me willing to jump in again.

But next time, I hope I don't have quite so many last minute obstacles thrown in my path.


Tiffany said...

You are a very kind and generous host. I can't imagine doing this on such short notice and with so many people!

And I'm glad the frenzy gave way to a good time; you deserved it!

Artax said...

I'm happy everything worked out well. I've been there....

KamilahNYC said...

Never would have guessed throw a great party!

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