Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dinner Guests 101

I am a little ashamed to write that after almost 9 months in country, I'm just now starting to entertain dinner guests.

We've had plenty of other ex-pats in for a meal. And we've had plenty of neighbors and friends over for 'tea' (which in my house is usually a glass of sprite and a cookie). A full meal just felt too complicated though. There are a number of factors adding to that complication.

1. 98%(ish) of our neighbors are vegetarians.  We're talking eggless cakes, etc. Don't get me wrong, I like vegetarian dishes fine, but veg cooking for guests is a bit intimidating.

2. Dinner is served around 9pm.  So, to be honest, we're pretty much asleep by then. We considered moving to 'local time' but with littles in the house, it's just too much. If we invited our neighbors to come eat dinner with us at 6pm, they would look at us like we were crazy. 6pm is 'tea time.'

3. Spices are everything. Friends, I am a self-declared lazy cook. Gradually, in the absence of prepared foods, I am learning how to use spices. But it's not my strong point. Spice is a BIG deal to these folks. They mix their own, grind them up themselves and take an awful lot of pride in them. Intimidating.

4. The Kick. Our region is known not just for spices, but for spicy food. The hotter the better. We're talking nose running, eyes burning, mouth on fire kick.  Once again, not my strong point. 
But excuses can only last so long, friends.

 Over the past few weeks, I've laid aside my pride and decided to give it a whirl. I'll give you a snap shot of two recent dinners at our home with locals.  Both semi-catastrophic, but we are progressing.

Scenario One: Enchiladas and Homemade Salsa 
What could be closer to asian food than a nice Mexican Enchilada? I even added a pepper for a little more flavor. The recipients were oh-so-kind. But there's just only so much one can do. The husband did his best to put it away but the wife just couldn't. The fork, the lack of masala, all of it...was just too much. In the end, she ate white rice and curd while I tried my best not to cry that there was absolutely nothing on my table she liked.  
Scenario Two: Eggplant Marinara & Spaghetti
We knew there was trouble when he told us that the last time he had spaghetti was on a business trip to Europe several years ago. It was the only veg food he could find, and he ordered it to-go because he didn't know how to eat it. Asians eat with their hands, not utensils. I hadn't really thought through the ramifications of this in my menu selection. I served him a bite sized portion and looked sorrowfully at the required fork.  30 minutes later, he took the last bite.  Laborious eating if ever there was. 
What I'm learning? Neither of these meals really was a catastrophe.  Everyone had a good time.  They learned a bit about us. We learned a lot more about them.  Friendships are growing. Our table was  a happy place and I am a bit further along in entertaining that I was before.

After all, I have to start somewhere, right?


staceyb said...

This, my DEAR sister, is inspirational!!!

Linz said...

at first i thought that baby was silas and i was like oh no! What have you put on that poor baby's ankles!