Prepping For the Dinner Party

My daughter has planned a dinner party for some of her friends for a while now, and tonight’s the night for it. To that end she’s developed a four course menu, secured all the ingredients (some of which you see here) and is even now cleaning the house and doing some early prep work with marinades and other such things. My wife is acting as chef’s assistant, while I have the duty of gopher, running about to get things Athena discovers she needs but didn’t know she needed until that moment. It’s family effort.

This will be Athena’s first dinner party, and she’s excited. I’m excited for her, and will note that she is far more ambitious at 14 than I was. I wouldn’t have thought to put on a four-course dinner for friends at her age. I think it’s pretty cool that she has. I’m proud to be her gopher for the evening.

57 thoughts on “Prepping For the Dinner Party

  1. I have enough trouble getting two dishes on the table at the same time. Anyone who can manage a four course meal is clearly someone to be reckoned with, particularly if she can manage to prepare it AND eat with her guests.

  2. What Steve said. 99% of the things that go wrong or that you are worried didn’t turn out right are things your guests will never notice. I hope everyone has a wonderful time.

  3. As the only child of two well educated and literate parents who do not talk down to her I suspect that her maturity level and ability to conceive and take on such projects is a lot higher than mine was. Remember, Athena – the dinner is simply the occasion for the gathering of you and your friends – not the goal. Do not stay in the kitchen once they arrive.

  4. John, as the father of a 6.5-year-old daughter, please share with me some parenting tips because I’m really impressed with Athena.

    I realize you don’t post the day-to-day details of life there with her and it’s probably not as rosy as the stuff you do share, but these stories are still excellent.

  5. This is exceedingly cool, first for Athena, because she is initiating a dinner party at an age when it would never occur to most people, she is is following through on what is required to simply get sh*t done for benefits that she wants to see (cleaning, cooking, etc,), and to the two of you as parents for allowing her to act on interesting ideas just to see where it might lead.

    As a parent of (older children) and a high school teacher who sees so many children raised in a very different way from yours, although my opinion shouldn’t matter to you, I have to say I’m proud of you for the way you are raising your daughter and also delighted that you decided to share this story with us. Thank you.

  6. Yay! Budding amateur chef! There are few social activities more pleasurable than cooking and serving your own edible creations to guinea pig friends.

  7. Ohhh, lovely! Congratulations on hosting your first dinner party, Ms Scalzi, and I hope it is the first of many more to come.

    I endorse what others have said – it will not go exactly as you expect/want it to go, but unless you actually point out what went wrong, NOBODY will know the difference. Ergo, don’t point it out. Keep that beautiful smile on your face, and graciously accept the compliments that will roll in.

    Our elder kid has, for the first time, asked to host Thanksgiving dinner this year, and we are simply delighted to pass the torch on. Both our kids (one female, one male) are excellent cooks who truly enjoy planning and putting on big beautiful meals, largely as a result of shadowing their dad in the kitchen for years and years before they left to live on their own. It is an unmitigated joy for a parent to watch, so don’t be at all surprised (and try not to be too embarrassed) if your mom and dad get all mushy and misty-eyed over your first party.

    Have fun with it, Ms. Scalzi, and I do hope you might be induced to share the menu at some point, possibly even some of the well-deserved compliments that I know you’ll receive. Enjoy it in good health!

  8. Kudos to Athena, and I hope her party goes well!

    For other parents of culinarily ambitious kids:

    I strongly recommend this series of kids’ cookbooks: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/?series_id=192100. Check your local library. The explanations are clear but not condescending, there are interesting cultural/historical tidbits, and the food is excellent. I particularly recommend the bean and sausage soup from “Cooking the Hungarian Way” which became an instant family favorite.

    In addition to the volumes dealing with particular countries or regions, there’s also a holiday volume and a vegetarian volume.

  9. Yay Athena, I hope you have lots of fun. I agree with everyone who has said that while not everything may go as planned, that usually turns out to be of very little import as long as the host focuses on having fun with the guests. My first dinner party was served in sequential courses because nothing was done at the same time (crown roasts take a really long time to thaw and partially frozen roasts take a while to cook).

  10. Isn’t it wonderful to have a child who can surprise you with her ambitions and reach?
    I have multiple children who also gain my respect time after time (they are already better people than I am ever likely to achieve), and I couldn’t be more proud. Good on ya, Athena!

  11. All three of you are individually more boss than a whole army of Jack Sparrows.

    (That was my brother’s way of putting it)

    Enjoy being a gopher, Mr. Scalzi! I hope that you at least get a sweet golf course to burrow around in–hopefully without Bill Murray trying to eliminate you by any means possible. ;)

  12. At 14 I would have served raviolis, Doritos, coke (sodas) and pop tarts.

    That kinda sounds good right now.

    Bon apetit.

  13. Best wishes to Athena for a smashing good time. Cooking well is one of those skills that will be invaluable, especially when you leave your ancestral homestead. Commandeering a friend’s kitchen to make butter chicken over a weekend beats the crap out of the inevitable peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when you’re stuck in the dorm.

  14. I think I was 15 when I did my first dinner party with my friends, which turned into a yearly thing, lasting even into college. Now that we’re graduated and scattered across the country, it’s not really possible any more – I do miss it.

  15. You and your wife are good parents and Athena’s an amazing young lady. At that age, I was up to toast or cereal and not always successful. It went downhill from there though I can do an amazing cup of instant ramen … well, I did melt the Styrofoam cup in the microwave a while back though it didn’t change the flavor best I could tell.

  16. I could not have pulled that off at 14. Partly b/c the kitchen was my mother’s, at which the rest of us trespassed at our peril.

    Although I maybe could have done it, since back in my day, we still had home ec, where we learned about cooking, nutrition, meal planning, and all that, with the final exam being a 3 course meal. Don’t think that’s common any more, and we’re all worse off for that.

    As long as nobody gets food poisoning, it’s a success.

  17. Best wishes, Ms. Scalzi! As long as you don’t make a fuss about it, almost anything can go wrong and the party will triumph over it with you. Enjoy the company of your friends, and let your parents feed the dishwasher.

  18. Bo apetit! Enjoy your party and just remember that it’s the talk around the food that is remembered most, so when the cooking’s done take the time to enjoy your company.

  19. I love cooking for my friends. I’m sure she’ll have a great dinner!

    Too late now, but the best tip I can give, as someone who’s hosted a lot of meals, is to do as much ahead of time (the day before, two days before) as possible, so you’re not as frazzled and tired at the actual meal.

  20. When I was 14, the only things I could cook were steak and pancakes. Therefore, I was not able to do a 4 course dinner. I could have done steak and pancakes. Note, I did not say eggs. My eggs were terrible at 14. Always overcooked.

  21. As an extra aside to both John and his wonderful wife Kristine, you have definitely a daughter that shows her paternal and maternal

  22. Good going, Athena. Remember: preparation is king/queen (kueeng?)! Misen place, and your work is cut in half.

    Things to cook longest go in first, time the rollout according to order and sequence of serving, and recovery is always an option. Backup plans are good to have; chefs live by them.

    I wish you many rewards for your hard work!

  23. Man, I’m really impressed — when I was 14, my idea of a “dinner party” was delivery pizza, Doritos, brownies, and all the soda we could drink. Hope everything went well and that she had a terrific time.

  24. Oh, that’s wonderful! May this story of awesome parents supporting an awesome kid be but a small example of all the awesome families existing out there right now.

    Cooking and baking are great skills to have and if she gets into it, then by college she’ll never want for an invite to a party. She’ll also have to deal with the2am “OH GOD ATHENA HELP I CAUGHT THE BROWNIE MIX ON FIRE” calls to action, but that’s part of the territory.

  25. My eldest had boxed millk catch on fire in her microwave her freshman year at college, but the very helpful guy at the microwave manufacturer’s help line (who gave his name as “Simba”) assured her that it was still safe to use the microwave.

    “Simba says it’s okay” became a catchphrase for her circle that year.

    (They were microwaving the boxed milk because it had frozen in the minifridge.)

  26. (Okay, my daughter notes that “catch on fire” is inaccurate. In her words, “It didn’t so much catch on fire as make lightning which charred the back of the microwave. We did catch a cookie on fire in an unrelated incident.”)

  27. I don’t usually reply to this blog but…. hey good for her! I was interested in cooking and such from being two years old and telling my grandmother precisely how to season my oatmeal, through to watching my mom cook (she rarely let go the prep work, because she has the patience of a gnat, anything she gave me to stir she would quickly grab it back). Regardless, I learned from observation and I did attain a skill in a very important part of most of our meals…. gravy. Chicken, pork, meatloaf gravy whatever. I learned how to make a roux, and judge the proportions by eye it as it browns in the fat and then decide the proper amount of liquid to add… Oh that is all probably boring, I’m sorry, it just brought up fond memories of our kitchen as I grew up. I did become the official gravy maker, it turned out to be my forte. And then when I went off to college and was able to cook based on everything I had observed over the years through my foodie family and it stood me in good stead. I hope her first event turns out just as she wanted!

  28. Some of my best memories involve cooking with my mother (save the summer we canned pickles, in Las Vegas. In July.) Some of my favorite times now are cooking with friends and family. I’m sure the event was an unqualified success, now to start planning the next one…

  29. Now we’re all missing the most obvious question here: did any of the four courses involve churros? :D

  30. Well???? How did it go???

    The last dinner party I had, I learned a valuable lesson indeed: Never make tamarind paste from pods. Just buy the damn paste. It is a sticky, gooey, mess trying to shuck those pods..

  31. Greg: My local SCA chapter a number of years ago had similar learning experiences: When making pounds of marzipan, do not buy almonds in the shell if you can avoid it. I wasn’t there for the incident with the fava beans, but I’ve seen the shudders that accomplish the phrase “peeling fava beans”.

  32. Hmmmm, not seeing any meat in there. Here’s a “Yay Athena” if that’s the case, and a sincere hope that the pomegranite was for Chicken Fesenjan if it wasn’t!

    Oh, and @Scalzi, if you don’t already have a copy, you need to get her “I’m Just Here for the Food” (as well as the follow-up volumes, of course!) by Alton Brown… Best. Cookbook. Ever.

  33. I co-hosted my first dinner party in high school. We were seniors, though some of our dates were in college. The menu included escargot and filet mignons. I believe the guys cooked those. I cannot for the life of me remember what I made, but I do remember that the meal took about eight hours of cooking and eating and we had a ball. There were eight of us, I think. Good times.

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