Food memories: a house full of anticipation

In the middle of the week I'd find my mother sitting at the kitchen table. That on its own wasn't special at all...teachers are never done when the school bell rings so I was used to seeing her there surrounded by corrected papers, books and binders. But now and then she was surrounded by recipes while making up a grocery list and half finished menus. Then I'd know we'd be having dinner guests over the weekend.

For a culture that claims to have a Burgundian lifestyle with a high appreciation of good cuisine, having guests over is quite a matter of honour. Groups of friends often tend to take (formally or informally) rotating roles to invite each other over and when it's your turn you sure don't want to perform less than the others.

At the end of the week the groceries were much more extensive than usually and I spent a lot of time running my little legs up and down the stairs to the basement to store the different ingredients until I'd perform the opposite little race to bring them at the requested times back to the kitchen. Wines were stashed in the fridge to cool, others were enjoying the upstairs room temperature.

On Saturday morning the dinner preparations get the entire family in their grip: the house got cleaned extra and I always helped my mother to set the table: waving the freshly ironed table cloth up in the air and then dressing it over the table top. Ok check whether it sides are equally hanging down...ooops no, of course not, pull a bit on the other side...oooh no no too much, geez take it easy..., ok I pull again on this side...damn it's all wrong now, let's start over...
Then the nice cutlery, wine glasses & nice plates were cleaned one by one all shiny and got placed in a rhythmical visual sequence on the table. When finished we'd both circle a couple of times around the table with an approving smile on our face.

During the big works in the kitchen, amidst the chopping, bubbling, whisking, checking the recipe, boiling and cooling it was usually my task (or any body's being in the neighbourhood) to get the needed ingredients at the right moment, wash up and assist when asked. Stress levels were often pretty high and misunderstandings just around the corner. This wasn't my favourite part of the day. But at the end I could start working on the appetizers .... I really sucked at it: I usually ensured to break some toasts, to cut the cheese in wrong sizes etc and then I was forced to eat all the wrong pieces. Tough luck ;) . Whenever a dish was ready (or prepared up to the limit you can prepare beforehand) we placed it on the kitchen table and gave it an approving smile.

After the appetizers the final race against the clock was entered. Champagne glasses on a tray in the living room: check, napkins folded in alternating colours: check, music on.....hey dad, please come and get the music on....Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad, the music....ok the soft cosy background music of Vangelis or a French chansonier filling the room: check....oooh the candles, almost forgot the candles, ok done: check. In the mean time my mom had already freed herself from her apron and I helped closing her necklace and putting her earrings in. The bathroom was filled with a strong mixture of dad's aftershave and mom's cologne. Now I got to change into my nice clothes and wait...We were ready to host our guests, we made it just in time.

Usually I'd hang out in my room with a good view on the driveway.

"They are heeeeerrrre!"



Margaret said…
I love having people over once they're here and the preparations are done. (but I hate getting all the stuff ready) Teachers aren't really supposed to have any life after Sept. (are we?)
rozebril said…
Mooi beschreven... ik zie het hele plaatje zo voor me.

Die "lichte stress" om alles klaar te krijgen als er mensen komen eten: heerlijk!
Lilacspecs said…
Heh, this is very true. I like how people prepare for guests here. It makes the evening a bit special.
Mike said…
I'd love to be a guest there :)


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anno said…
I always loved the rituals of my parents getting ready to have people over... this was a wonderful story!
This was so timely today because I'm having just that sort of dinner for friends tomorrow. Usually, I'm a fairly informal host, but tomorrow my mother is coming and they're friends of hers, as well, and she likes everything to be "just so". C and D are going to help clean in the morning, we'll get the last groceries at the farmers market and then they'll go off to a movie, and I'll cook, cook, cook!

You really captured the whole thing.
Virtualsprite said…
I love dinner parties for the same reason, but yours in Belgium sound so much more than ours here in Wisconsin. What fun!

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