That Sinking Feeling
My friend Fenwick is a bon vivant in every way except one. He enjoys fine restaurants and convivial get-togethers, but when it comes to cooking, he is what is known as a “sinkie,” a person who dines straight from the can over the kitchen sink. Imagine my wife’s and my surprise the day our sinkie friend invited us to a dinner party at his apartment. It was a potluck, but even a potluck is not without fuss. “He must be turning over a new leaf,” my wife said.
Our job was to bring an entrée. I chose a recipe I thought would go well with a variety of other entrées: a nice chicken-noodle casserole, with toasted almond slivers, plenty of cheddar on top, and a hint of nutmeg. As I grated the cheese, the phone rang. “I was just wondering,” Fenwick said. “Do you have any cutlery?” Now there was a word I hadn’t heard in a while. Sure, I told him, and gathered up some silverware. We had one foot out the door when Fenwick phoned again. “Um . . . can you bring chairs?”
“How many do you need?” I asked.
“We’ll bring two,” I replied.
We were the first to arrive. “Would you like some red wine?” Fenwick inquired, and we nodded enthusiastically. “Great! There’s a bottle coming shortly.” A bottle. “Maybe you guys could set the table while I get cracking in the kitchen,” Fenwick said. It was at the mention of the kitchen that I noticed the absence of cooking smells. I asked him what he was making. “An asparagus dish,” came the reply from the kitchen.
“What’s in this . . . asparagus dish?”
“Asparagus,” he said. “I’m going to boil it.” There followed the sound of furious chopping. “Don’t worry,” Fenwick continued, sensing my skepticism. “It’ll be quite a feast. I’ve asked someone to bring a salad. And these other friends are bringing some bread. Then there’s the entrée.” It dawned on me that my entrée—which served four to six, according to the recipe—was the entrée. “Hope I made enough,” I muttered.
Soon the promised salad arrived, along with a very nice couple from MIT. Other guests brought plates, and at length the bottle of wine, delayed by an accident on the Mass. Pike, materialized. We ate small portions and took dainty sips and swore we were full. As always in Fenwick’s company—which covers a multitude of sins—the conversation was lively. After dinner, we washed our dishes and packed up our cutlery and chairs. I thanked Fenwick for a pleasant evening. “It was nothing,” he said as he shook my hand. “I just love to entertain.”
Magazine editors love to entertain, too, especially in this season of beach and hammock reading. We’ve put together a six-course meal (“Edible Planet”) that we hope will satisfy. There’ll be farm-style haute cuisine, surprising edibles from Alaska, artificial “caviar,” plus free refills on hot sauce. If you want, you can bring dessert.