Everyone has party plans that don’t quite work out. Mel offers the following:
Though I have more often been party guest than a party thrower, I have still experienced my share of party-related disasters.
The earliest disaster I recall was not so much a disaster as a difficulty, the result of bad planning. My aunt Edith, which is to say my mother’s sister, used to fancy herself quite the hostess. She and my uncle Morrie used to throw occasional family parties at their large home on the west side of Los Angeles. The guest list generally came in at around 20, including kids. The food was good when we got down to eating it. The problem was that getting to it took so long.
Apparently, Aunt Edith was not able to limit the number of dishes she made. Platter after platter emerged from her kitchen. Her guests were kept busy passing platters and bowls. Soon the novelty of taking from the right, serving oneself, and handing off on the left wore off. It seemed to take hours. When we finally had a chance to eat, everything was stone cold. Sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, too much of a good thing.
After I moved away from home, I had my own kitchen at last. That means I had room to have my own disasters. One that I remember well was the carrot cake puzzle. When a friend gave me a recipe for a carrot cake I admired, I had no trouble following the directions for making it. The problem came with the cooling.
I remembered my mother turning an angel food cake upside down on a funnel to cool it, so I tried the same thing. But I failed to take into account that carrot cake is much heavier than angel food. I turned my carrot cake over and immediately huge chunks of it fell out onto the countertop. I saved the pieces and turned the cake right side up.
While it cooled–in pieces–I wondered what I should do. I was making the cake for a party and my friends were expecting it. Because I had neither the time nor the ingredients to start again, throwing the cake away seemed like a bad idea. By the time the cake was cool enough to work with, I had my solution. I decided to glue the parts together with frosting. Then I frosted the outside so that the cracks wouldn’t show. I didn’t know how my friends would receive this somewhat altered cake, but I needn’t have worried. I got good reviews, and soon all the evidence of my perfidy was gone.
Not all food disasters happen in the kitchen. I was invited to a potluck Christmas dinner at the home of some friends who suggested I bring a Hanukkah dish. A favorite of mine since childhood was noodle kugel, sort of a Jewish noodle pudding containing bits of fruit and other stuff, the ingredients depending on who your grandmother was and where she came from. I had no recipe, so I made one up as I went along. It turned out pretty well and I proudly presented the result to my friends. They displayed it on the table with the other food.
My friends were Hollywood types who took pictures and movies of everything they did. This potluck party was no exception. Somebody set up a camera to take a picture of the table before we ruined the composition by eating. When he turned on a bright light, the bulb exploded, sending tiny shards of glass all over the table. Luckily a lot of food was still in the kitchen, but my kugel was a total loss. I spooned the whole thing into the trash. I still get sad when I think about it.
I figure that as long as the house doesn’t catch fire and nobody is hurt, a disaster is something to learn from, not to fear.