It is everything. Just as with a restaurant it’s location, location, location. Growing up, marrying, having kids in the right school district.
When it comes to cooking for guests, I’ve somewhat of a complicated menu. Simple, really, not seven courses or anything made for an international competition. But I time it. It includes a time for “turn oven to 350.”
I go back from serving time on a sheet of paper from when guests arrive to drinks, appetizers, seating, dinner, salad, dessert, coffee or tea. I bring it back to the roast and its accoutrements, everything in five minute intervals.
I like that it’s both old school and kind of strange and don’t do it for dinner with my husband, that’s just in my head. With guests everything has to be perfect, the menu and execution and friendship. Just a thought. Dee
ps People ask if I cook this way every night for my husband and he says, enthusiastically, “Yes!” Then they say he is a lucky man. I can only do it in my head because it just comes from the heart, and not after a day of cleaning the house and ironing the napkins and getting flowers and prepping and cooking and figuring out what to wear. Yes, for family meals I plan menus in my head as well, usually while walking through a good grocery store and seeing what’s fresh and knowing how to make the most of it, like garlic scapes, all fresh fruits and veg then to the butcher and afterwards, round it out. D
Note, unless you’re an expert or grew up in China, don’t make Chinese food if you wish to talk with your guests! If so, mis en place! Mom used to tell me that whenever I cooked I used every dish in the house! My favorite make-ahead dish is Moussaka. I love eggplant. My husband hates it. It’s so great because an hour before guests arrive it’s prepared and in the oven and smells terrific (I love potatoes on the bottom and eggy bechamel on top of a cinnamon-y beef sauce…… Guests arrive, I’ve some homeade spanakopita and all the ingredients and vinaigrette prepared for a huge Greek salad. Yum! As to the husband and moussaka, I may try layering with grilled zucchini instead or making him his own portion and leave the guests their grilled eggplant!