I love Dinner Parties: Shainamas

11 Dec

The holiday season is upon us, but a few days ago, I decided to kick it off with a holiday party that could take my friends’ minds off studying for a bit and bring in some holiday cheer.  Instead of trying to tie together all the winter holidays, I created my own holiday, Shainamas, to put my winter holiday preferences into one big package!  If you want to start celebrating Shainamas, here are the stipulations:

1.  It falls on the first Sunday of every December.  It was the first day I was available; there is no real significance to the date, but that is when I will annually celebrate it.

2.  Holiday music is welcome, but classic rock should hold the majority of the playlist.  Led Zeppelin and AC/DC are good choices.

3.  Just make good food!  I incorporated holiday foods to get in the spirit, but as long as you eat some good winter-y/cozy food, you’ve got my OK.

4.  There must be a wintery beverage.

5.  Everyone must enjoy this break from the stress of the outside world.

6.  You must enjoy cooking the meal and love the food you are cooking, but you must do all you can to make the best of your cooking quarters.  This applies to all who have a crappy kitchen and lack kitchenware.  I prepared Shainamas dinner in my dorm kitchen with limited utensils, two hours, and two bowls.

7.  Flatware, plates, and bowls are BYO, or at least should not be from a complete set.  Eating with alternative utensils is welcome/encouraged, especially if the utensils are cultural.  

Those are the guidelines to Shainamas.  For my Shainamas dinner, I invited a bunch of friends from my dorm up to our lounge to sit around, take a study break, eat, and talk.  I made an unbalanced dinner that satisfied my cravings and could feed a bunch of people:

  • Latkes–just potato, onion, egg, a pinch of flour, salt, and pepper, fried generously in oil SERVE WITH APPLESAUCE (and sour cream, which  I didn’t have).  The condiments are important.
  • Pasta “carbonara.”  I tossed spaghetti with eggs, bacon fat, crispy lardons, and parmigiano reggiano, which was fabulous if a bit fatty.  I wanted it to be a messy “fun” dish.
  • Salad of romaine, orange supremes, orange vinaigrette-marinated tofu, and dried cranberries with a red wine vinaigrette.
  • Gingerbread and pumpkin custard trifle
  • Eggnog

Clearly, the dinner was heavy, but everyone enjoyed it and had a great time.

Here’s where my Shainamas sermon comes in:

I love throwing dinner parties.  No matter where, no matter what.  I have thrown dinner parties in my home, in a strange and broken-down kitchen in a small Hungarian village, and now in my dorm room.  I have thrown them for friends, for my parents’ friends, and for strangers.  No matter what, I love giving people a time to come together, relax, and enjoy some great food without worrying about preparing it.

Sometimes people really need a dinner party.  If they haven’t had the time to stop and enjoy themselves; if they need to get away from the stress of work or school or even other problems; if they are hungry for some good food–then they need the dinner party.  And I love watching people eat and get better in doing so.  It’s like a form of alternative medicine.  One can enjoy a dinner party if he or she doesn’t need it, but if the person needs it–then it’s all the more worth it.

Face it: it’s therapy for the guests as well as the host.  Enjoying a dinner party is like defrosting and getting back in touch with what’s important.  Whether we’ve been neglecting family, neglecting to cook real food, or neglecting our own well-being, we can turn it around with one good meal and a bunch of good people.

I myself enjoy the feeling of cooking and cooking and cooking, preparing something satisfying and delicious for others.  Even if I am not a guest at the party, I love watching everyone eat and enjoy when I am exhausted from putting effort into every element of the meal.  A particularly good dinner party was my “last supper,” which I made for my family before I went to college.

I spent all day rolling out hand-made pasta, curing fish, shaving vegetables, cleaning mushrooms, and making hand-shaken butter (a method I learned in kindergarten that I regard highly).  I beat zabaglione, I shaved cheese, and I kneaded bread dough and made crostini.  I pickled onions, and I hand cut fries.  Even though I was so tired and grimy by the end, I felt amazing, and my family really enjoyed the meal.  I couldn’t have asked for more than seeing the satisfaction they got from the meal; from seeing my brother even try new things and enjoy them.

So, with that, I hope to make more dinners for whoever will eat them in the future.  I sometimes feel like a dancer with no audience.  I could practice in studio all day, but my production is not as fulfilling without people there to enjoy.  I could cook for anyone, provided that it made them happy.


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