Monday, November 30, 2009

The Simple Menu in Dinner


People are so busy and so health- and weight-conscious these days that most of your guests will be perfectly pleased if you count the hors d’oeuvres as the first course. You can serve hors d’oeuvres, attractively arranged on platters placed around the room for people to sample, during the cocktail hour. This setting lends itself to the great variety of prepared foods available today. Avoid user-unfriendly foods that are perilous to furniture and clothing. Everything should be simple enough to be picked up with fingers, speared with a toothpick, or spread with a knife.
Your main course can be as simple as a casserole with a salad or baked ham. It is a good idea to avoid roasts, which depend on a precise serving time and taste like shoe leather if left uneaten for too long.
Don’t think that you must purchase expensive food for your party. I once attended a dinner for out-of-towners given by a famous Philadelphia hostess. She served scrapple—a traditional Philadelphia cornmeal dish—lentils, scrambled eggs, hashbrown potatoes, and chocolate ice cream with raspberry sherbet. She told her guests that she was treating them to “a flavor of Philadelphia.” The guests loved it. And, of course, the story of Eleanor Roosevelt serving hot dogs to the Queen of England is legendary.
You can also take advantage of the gourmet take-out shops, which will have your food ready for pickup or delivery just when you want it. If you’re trying a shop for the first time, talk to the owner and taste the food in advance. These shops can be a godsend for “everybody works” households.
Balance is important. If your main course is light, a heavier dessert works well, and vice versa. In any case, dessert is important. I have noticed that otherwise dietconscious people quickly develop calorie amnesia when dessert arrives at someone else’s table. However, when a guest doesn’t eat what you are serving, don’t think you have to whip up something special just for him or her. If you like exotic foods and plan to serve them, ask your guests when you invite them if they like, say, moussaka. A guest who is too polite to refuse something he or she doesn’t like after you cook it often will not hesitate to tell you candidly about his or her dislikes beforehand.
As a guest, you should let your host know if you have special dietary needs. If you are a vegetarian, have serious food allergies, are kosher, or avoid certain foods for health reasons, make it known when you are invited. The host then can create a menu that will please everyone and still take your needs into consideration. Or the host may prepare an additional side dish for you, augment the side dishes, or just advise you to bring your own food. Carol Channing is famous for bringing her own food to parties.