I have learned that when hosting a dinner party for eight people while five months pregnant, there are a number of factors critical for making sure that you are the very best hostess that you can possibly be. Allow me to share some of these with you.
Prepare your menu a few days beforehand and work out exactly what ingredients and equipment you will need.
Choose a one-pot dish that will easily feed your mountains of hungry guests and can be prepared a few hours in advance so as to avoid last minute panics.
Ask for help from friends in bringing other courses. Note: when your lovely friend Eimear jokingly offers to make a giant swan-shaped meringue, best to laugh and thank her for the kind offer and suggest something a bit more low maintenance. Do not dare her to do it.
Go shopping the day before the party and stock up on everything you’ll need.
Make sure you have enough wine. A good tip is to estimate the number of bottles you think your friends will drink....then triple it.
Enlist a sous-chef to help you on the day. Perhaps someone you live with or to whom you are engaged.
Ensure that your sous-chef does not go on an all night bender the night before the dinner party with the result that he (or she, because this could happen to anyone) is hungover, unconscious and useless the next day when the cooking is taking place.
Ensure that your sous-chef does not continue drinking on the night of the dinner party with the result that he or she is hungover, unconscious and useless the day after that when the cleaning up is taking place.
I totally rocked the first six points but sadly fell down on points 6 & 7. In my sous-chef’s defence, it was not his intention to be in an alcohol induced mini-coma when all the serious work was taking place. He didn’t even go out until after I was safely tucked up in bed at 10pm. The next thing I knew, it was 3am and a homicidal maniac with one arm had broken into the house and was trying to kill me with a kitchen knife, or at least this is what I thought when I woke up in terror before realising it was just one of those incredibly vivid dreams that you’re supposed to get during pregnancy. The last crazy pregnancy dream I had was about skiing down a mountain made of soft-whip ice-cream with rainbow sprinkles which was infinitely more appealing (although slightly stickier).
I decided not to risk going back to sleep in case the next dream finished me off so I rang my absentee sous-chef and pretended not to sound like the insane, terrified, emotional wreck I was and calmly asked him when I might expect his return. He indicated that this might be shortly but it ended up being 5.15 am. I know this because I was propped up awake peering through the back window every two minutes for signs of homicidal maniacs.
On his return, the sous-chef was both profound, profoundly uncoordinated and within a very short space of time, profoundly dead to the world. Relieved that I was now safe to continue sleeping, I drifted gratefully back into slumber but, alas, it was not to be. It seems that people who have been drinking until 5.15 tend to snore and don’t wake up when you poke them (or when you kick them, pull their hair or pull back their eyelids and touch their eyeballs). I tossed and turned until 7 when I finally succumbed to sleep. At 7.30am the slumbering sous-chef’s phone alarm went off and he did not wake up to turn it off. I let it go to see how long it would take him to turn it off but after five minutes I gave up and turned it off myself. There was no more sleep and at 9am I hauled myself out of bed to begin the process of preparing a dinner party for eight people, sans sous chef.
Five hours later, a lovely boeuf bourguignon and two types of salad were prepared and my sous chef appeared in time to make me sandwiches and send me babbling and semi-hysterical back to bed for a few hours of rest before the dinner party which went splendidly in the end even though the sous-chef was incredibly hungover and the beautiful meringue swan was decapitated at some point on its journey from Eimear’s house to ours. Giant meringue swans do not travel well (but they taste just as good headless).
I could not stay cross with the sous-chef-who-wasn’t. The pain and misery of his three day hangover was enough punishment (plus I also told his mother on him).
PS - the photo above is what a swan meringue look like when it has not been decapitated. We didn’t take photos of our poor headless swan as it would have been in bad taste.