Wrap up the dinner and leave

The hardest part of having people over for me is not the cooking. My mother used to be married to a man who, when people were coming to the house for dinner would get ready by cleaning our dark, never intended for company, dungeon of a basement–just in case one of the guests, I don’t know, decided to do a load of laundry. It was a problem. If the basement has never been cleaned before in the history of a one hundred year old house, the job is a big one and is going to leave little time for getting the basics, like food, on the table.
Even with no blood between us, I have inherited this crippling compulsion. The difference is my improved technique. I hide the door to the basement behind piles of coats on hooks–no one expects a basement in NYC–I remove the light bulbs in my office where I refuse to clean, shove anything loose or lying around into a closet or a drawer, sweep, clean the bathrooms, and use fairy lights and candles instead of anything overhead to mute whatever is left. Day before yesterday I decided to forego the whole problem by leaving the premises. I made roasted potatoes, fresh beets, and walnuts and stacked them up on a pearly white platter with shavings of parmesan and caramelized onions with fennel seed. I washed a pile of arugula and wrapped it in a towel and made a lemony vinaigrette by shaking all the ingredients together in a jar that doubled as a carrying case for things like tricky liquid. I packed wide bowls for people to toss their own salads with the greens and everything on the platter. I smashed some cannellini with lemon juice, garlic fried mint and a good drizzle of olive oil, and toasted slivers of whole grain boule to spread it on, and threw slices of candied ginger shortbread to have on the side. Dinner was done and ready to carry in an hour to the banks of the East River–no cleaning necessary.

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