This is the first question me and my better half ask each other whenever we plan a get together in our humble abode. The menu often gets more attention than the guest list. Don’t believe me?
Last week, we decided to invite few friends over dinner. It had been a long time since we had some fun together. So Sunday dinner looked like a perfect excuse to catch up. But there was this ultimate confusion.
‘What should be the menu?’
I have seen people who invite guests at Sunday lunch and start thinking about the menu only on the Saturday night. But the Paul household is a bit different from the rest. For two very poles apart people live there. A typical insane Virgo wife who likes to plan everything to the T days ahead even if the house agent is coming merely for a signature on the agreement papers. And then there is the Taurus man who prefers to get into action only at the 11th hour. So you can very well imagine the turbulence inside such a family expecting some guests.
In my opinion, a well arranged dinner invite demands a week’s planning. And I fully commit myself to nag the husband and remind about the grocery shopping list now and then based on the menu decided.
And what’s the menu?
After arguing for days and suggesting each other new new dishes from the internet, we end up having the same chhole (chickpeas curry tasting like I don’t know what), paneer (cottage cheese whose only variation is the colour of the gravy), chicken (husband’s signature dish), fried rice and chapatis(Indian flatbreads).
The last week was no different either.
Husband realised we were going to serve our guests the same age old menu. He tried to play safe and expressed his wish to order food from restaurant this time. But I didn’t see any logic to make guests eat hotel food at home. Naturally, the wife in me had to protest. It is then when I decided to twist the menu a little here and there.
There will be no chickpeas curry rather the small white peas cooked in true Bengali style will grace the dining table. Palak paneer (cheese made in spinach gravy) will replace the usual boring curry. Husband decided not to use potatoes in chicken this time. He also insisted to prepare custard in dessert. Fried rice and chapatis were the only constants.
If one gives a little thought, then they will easily realise we are selling old wine in a new bottle. But who cares as long as the recipes look different?
Now, apart from the turmoil in the kitchen, there are some pros of having guests at home :
1 Any impending invitation demands the house to have cleanliness of the highest order. It creates a good impression upon guests. Hence the house gets a special facial and spa massage (read : mopping the toughest corners) apart from it’s usual dusting and cleaning beauty regime.
2 Bathrooms. They say if you want to know the true nature of any family, visit their bathroom first. And Paul family prefers to have a clean bathroom in a usable state in front of guests.
3 Dining table is a piece of furniture that serves manifold purposes in the Paul household. Apart from providing a place to have food, it is a habitat for various non-living helpless immigrants.
6 big and small water bottles, 2 salt & pepper containers (1 chaat masala container is the latest addition to this family), 1 plastic bottle containing toothpicks (which finds more use in scratching ears by husband than cleaning teeth, much to my annoyance), 1 basket with a rabbit face(contains misc items starting from medicines to room keys), 1 bottle of Hajmola (spicy and tangy digestive tablets), 1 green coloured casserole, 1 jar containing dry fruits and 1 glass flower vase standing like a cherry on the cake above all of them.
If the description of the dining table requires the use of so many sentences compared to 1 & 2 points, then you can imagine how much effort one needs to put for making the table ready for guests.
4 Finest crockeries come out of the wardrobes and see the light of the day. They give us a good chance of arguing which ones should be used to serve guests. Wife insists to use all of them so that guests can have food in a civilised manner. Whereas the husband favours the minimal use of utensils (so that he has to wash less dishes later on).
In India, we have this philosophy Atithi Devo Bhava meaning the guest is equivalent to God. And when you have invited God over dinner, then the responsibility of serving God with utmost devotion multiplies by ten times. Although the huge pile of dishes and leftovers develop some creases on the forehead, but smile and satisfaction on the guests’ faces makes the effort a worthy one. Moreover, you get a good sleep at night too ( there is no other option with a strained back either).