So what happened to entertaining anyway? These days, apart from your major holidays, the only meals most of us eat outside our houses are the meals we pay for – and I guess it was in part to counter this trend that I decided to invite people over for a real St. Patrick’s Day corned-beef-and cabbage dinner.
The ‘people’ were my daughters and their four young children and I have to say, the daughters were all for it. “Only maybe no corned beef?” requested the one who in her own early years subsisted entirely on a diet of Smartfood.
“I’ll do a brisket instead” I cheerfully offered, “and serve Irish soda bread and… I know, bright green peas! And we’ll have tiny pots of shamrock dotting the table!” My zeal was like a delirium as I planned the traditional feast, though with certain modifications for the younger diners.
I decided, for example, to (a) scratch the cooked carrots, which strike many small children as repulsive, and serve instead cute individual ‘bouquets’ of tiny raw baby carrots; and (b) also scratch the cooked cabbage, which, let’s tell the truth, smells to high heaven and instead set raw cabbage leaves on a platter to serve as pale-green “cups” into which I would spoon a sweet slippery sling of sliced canned peaches. Lovely!
I’d go ahead with the boiled potatoes, I decided, but mash them up with plenty of butter and milk, to make sure they got eaten.
I was on my way!
The afternoon before, I shopped with an eagle eye, pinching the bottoms of the spuds, the carrots – even the brisket itself. And then I started cooking.
The morning of the big event found me ironing the napkins and the tablecloth, then dashing to several florists, where the tiny pots of shamrocks proved neither as darling nor as plentiful as I had remembered. So Ok, I’d use plain white flowers, and lay them on a rectangular tray, on a bed of greens, I decided.
The whole rest of the day I sprinted from the kitchen to the dining room and back again, breaking only to speed-walk to the drugstore for some aspirin – where my eye fell on two bright-green baby dinosaurs, with big purple eyes and wonderful spangly scales.
I bought them on the spot, speed-walked back home, nestled the dinosaurs next to the centerpiece and was just fashioning blossoms of bright-green ‘curly ribbon’ around their necks when – yikes! – the doorbell rang. The company had come, along with a big dose of reality, which is to say:
The children gave the brisket a total pass. Ditto the pale-green cups of cabbage cradling peach slices. Ditto the Irish soda bread. And I forgot to even serve the baby carrots.
Perhaps to set a merry tone when we first sat sit down at the table, my husband and daughters each opened a bottle of craft beer – at which point I shouted, “No, no! GREEN beer!” then jumped from the table, rummaged in the cabinets for the food coloring, and proceeded to accidentally dye my whole hand green, which I must say looked strikingly vivid next to the blood that began gushing out when I sliced the tip of my finger open on my own humble can of Bud Light.
“I hope the cloth is washable,” I heard one daughter murmur as I sprinted upstairs to the bathroom in search of a bandage.
It was there in the quiet of the bathroom, while perched on the edge of the tub with my improvised tourniquet, that I began to see just why people don’t entertain very much. All that dashing about! And the headaches! And not even getting a single SIP of the beer!
Lucky for us all, we got invited out for Easter.