yes, it happens
This was on 20th July 2012, one year back. I knew a week ahead that I would be hosting a dinner at home that Friday. Of all the recipes I had tried, failed, and succeeded at in the last two years, I planned a menu days beforehand for the special evening. Because a very special couple (Bhaiya-Bhabhi) and their two kids were going to come over for dinner for the first time at our place. But my high expectations from that dinner failed. You know one of those days when you are running late, only then you find all red signals on the way? It felt the same. Though in my case, everything I did seemed to 'run over' a red signal.
The plan was to first give strawberry-ginger lemonade as the welcome drink, then bring out the homemade bread for bruschetta with options of tomato-basil topping and hummus as appetizers. These were things that could be prepared very well beforehand. I had baked the bread in the afternoon until almost done, leaving few minutes to bake it later and serve it nice and warm.
For the main course, I had planned one rice item: mughlai biryani and a rice accompaniment: walnut and grape raita. There was also one roti item: laccha paratha to go along with a curry/sabji accompaniment: shahi paneer. Special couple, special dinner. So I wanted the menu to have mughlai, shahi, biryani, paneer - everything that would sound exquisite.
Then the dessert was to have rice kheer rich with nuts and assorted fruits like cherries, kiwi, strawberries, etc. Kheer and desserts were to be prepared beforehand so that I focus my time on cooking the main course was my intention. And ending a heavy meal with a simple dessert and exotic fruits appeared right.
Despite all the planning and preparations, my entire dinner seemed like a disaster that day. From the drink to the dessert - I ended up making nothing beforehand and everything on that very day. In fact I was cooking until after they came. And even until after they had appetizers.
The dinner was a combination of all kinds of mishaps possible when having someone over. The quantity of lemonade was not sufficient, so I had to quickly add more strawberry puree to some more lemonade. Preheating the oven took time, then baking the bread took more time. So I cut pieces and just put them in the mini toaster oven instead. Toasting was taking long too, so I took the bread out before it toasted well. I had no time to make hummus, so served the bruschetta only with tomato and basil mixture, which had oozed some amount of water and became a little soggy because of the salt mixed with tomato and basil for hours.
The vegetable gravy for biryani was a little too thin, which made the biryani soggy instead of retaining the fluff in the rice. The taste and consistency of the raita was not as perfect as I had made it many times before. The shahi paneer recipe in a cookbook I had was lengthy and there was not enough time for all the processes, so I resorted to making paneer makhni from recipe written on the packet of ready-made paneer. Bhabhi helped me cook the paneer makhni, suggesting I add cashew nut paste to flavor and thicken the gravy, and helped roll out the parathas while I roasted them. The kheer turned out too sweet for their taste buds, and I was cutting the fruits in a hurry just prior to serving them.
While Alok gave company to Bhaiya, and while Bhabhi was helping me cook, the kids were hungry and bored - we forgot to have something that would keep them entertained. While I worried about that, I also saw my kitchen was a hell lot of mess, there was a lot of mismanagement, I was gone bonkers - and each of that would still be an understatement.
The next morning, I analyzed the entire day and the dinner - to improve myself and be a better host, and asked myself what went wrong. Everything, obviously. It did not matter that I used tried and tested recipes, it did not matter that I cooked good on regular days, it did not matter that I had all the preparations planned out - I understood only one thing: all the last-minute work was chaotic, embarrassing, and THIS was unexpectedly the most embarrassing dinner I hosted. EVER.
But I when I spoke to Bhabhi later in the day, she lovingly said to me, "with time you will learn everything...don't worry...and I know you will learn very fast".
And THAT, was undoubtedly the most motivational, precious piece of advice, I received. EVER.
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