Tuesday, March 03, 2009

How to Have Your Friends Over For Dinner

You'll have to get used to giving everything away: your food, your wine, your time, and your love. Your friends will come over. They'll mill around. They'll bring wine, maybe. They'll stand there waiting. They'll feel anxious. You'll feel anxious. Put out some strawberry avocado salsa.

Give your friends small tasks to perform.

Say to your friends: Fold this napkin exactly like this; pinch this string bean exactly like this; good, now pinch every string bean exactly like that.

Don't be so anal-retentive.

Never, for example, use the word "exactly".

Your friends will get nervous. String beans are a casual affair, after all, and so is your little get-together. On the other hand, positively do not let your friend fuck up your string beans. Choose the right friend for this task. The best is your Mom. If she's not around, try Henry.

Let your other friends perform small tasks. Sure, Cogan's terrible at string beans, but he's a master conversationalist. He's an epic wine-drinker too. Put him on the couch. Set a bottle of wine and two glasses in front of him. He'll fill the first glass. Soon Someone Else will come along. Surely Someone Else will sit down and fill the second glass. The two will get along marvelously, Cogan and this Someone Else. Someday, maybe, they'll get married, and have a beautiful baby girl. They'll always remember that one time, your little get-together, when they met on the couch, over a bottle of wine. To thank you for this memory they'll name the baby girl after you.

They'll say: I'd like you to meet our new baby girl, Seth.

By the way, if you expect this sort of honor, you're going at it all wrong. This night is not about you and your weird, fanatical obsession with having your friends name their babies after you. This night is about your friends. So when you sit down to eat, and everyone's still a little anxious, and that initial great, quiet hum of people eating joyfully is finally interrupted by Jackson, who, it just so happens, loves the string beans, you'll know exactly what to say.

Oh, you'll say, Henry made the string beans.

And everyone will applaud.

But what if the string beans, actually, suck?

Oh, you'll say, My bad.

Next time, you'll do better.

And then give Henry a wink. Make it so the wink says: Good job, man. They'll never know we actually wanted the string beans to suck.

But what if you really didn't want the string beans to suck? What if you really fucked them up, just like you fucked up the chicken that one time, and everyone moaned and complained: This chicken is raw.

Remember: Wine helps.

Say: Fuck, this food sucks! But life is short. Let's toast life!

Order take-out. Promise you'll do better next time. Luckily, happily, there will always be a next time. You'll discover that it's the only way to stay afloat. You must have your friends over. You must continue to give everything. You'll discover that, weirdly, the more you give the more you receive. Sure, you spent three laborious hours in the kitchen, but notice how the next day you wake at 10:00 am only to discover it's 7:00 am. The day spreads out before you like an enormous canvas! Paint it blue, with your hang-over.

Also, random checks will appear in your mailbox. The government will send you an official letter.

Sorry, we forgot, the letter will say, but we owe you $10,000.

If you expect this, though, you're going at it all wrong. This night is not about giving and receiving. It's about your friends. And besides, that massive account-book of give and take between you and your friends will always remain balanced, because Karen was there for you when you almost died, and because Brad tried to fight that entire house of people because they called you that bad name, and because Pyle made you laugh so hard you remembered that you actually did like being alive, and because Charlie offered to help you pick up that log in the middle of that terrible rainstorm, and because Henry always pinches the string-beans just right, and because JJ loves you so much you always feel adored, and because Cogan is some sort of mythical idea of a perfect friend, except for his girlfriends, and because Princey, although he doesn't come over much anymore, would jump off a roof to save your life.

So, really, what's a chicken?

And anyway, soon enough you'll become a Magician at this sort of thing. Your friends will continue to come over and mill around anxiously. But notice how the strawberry avocado salsa calms them. Then, notice, how, at the table, magically, the anxious feeling dissolves. Suddenly, everyone is cozy, the wine bottles are overflowing with air, and the conversation has become one long riff on possibility--the possible excursions you'll share, the possible trips you might take together, the long days at the beach, the possibility of summer cookouts, and the strong, vibrantly drunk possibility that everything will be getting better and better from this moment onward.


And it will get better, actually. This meal will heal you, a little. It will bring you closer to the people you love the most in the world, and since those people actually live in your heart, your heart will grow, a little.

Soon, things will start to change for you.

Cleaning-up, you'll realize, is incredibly fun.

You'll put your I-Pod on shuffle. You'll enlist one of the drunker friends to help. You'll get down on your hands and knees and scrub the floor. And while you're down there, you'll thank life for this opportunity you didn't squander, the time you could have spent alone, wallowing in what you've been able to hold onto, but instead you spent with your friends, the time you let everything go: your food, your wine, your time, and your love. And what is all that stuff even good for, if it can't be given away?

Strawberry Avocado Salsa

I've already published this recipe on-line, elsewhere. That recipe is good, but I'm changing it a bit, below, in an attempt to "reclaim" the recipe for FoodVibe. Consider this recipe below the definitive Strawberry Avocado Salsa recipe, straight from the source. This recipe is about gentle, exquisite preparation. I suggest taking your time, following the recipe precisely...

1 pound strawberries (local, of course, is best)
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1/4 cup scallion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 lime, quartered
1/4 teaspoon sugar, optional
sea salt
2 firm-ripe avocados

Remove the green stems from the strawberries. Gently chop the strawberries, using clean, swift knife strokes so that each chopped piece is only touched briefly by the knife. (If you do not have the patience to cleanly chop the strawberries please do not make the recipe.)

In small bowl, gently, very gently, toss the strawberries with the jalapeño, scallion, and cilantro. Squeeze a quarter of lime onto the strawberry salsa and season with sugar, if desired, and sea salt.

Half the avocados, remove the pit and the skin. Finely, and very smoothly and carefully, dice the avocados and place into a small bowl. Squeeze two quarters lime juice onto the avocado and gently toss.

Pour strawberry salsa in the bowl with the avocados. Gently toss. Season with additional salt and lime juice, if desired. Serve...


jen said...

Someday, I will try that salsa.
I have copied and pasted it and saved it for future reference.

Anonymous said...

I'm a friend. Have me over for dinner.

I drink wine too!


Karen said...

First, I cannot think of anything I enjoy more than having our friends over for dinner! Reading this actually made me tear up with happiness thinking about the fun times we've had savoring food and wine with our friends.

Second, Seth's strawberry avocado salsa is, hands-down, one of my favorite recipes ever!

Finally, let's get Bo over here!

nesrine said...

i want to tell you on here how much
i liked this post
but i wont
ill wait till i see
yourself in person
then ill do so
and accompany it
with two taps on the back

Suzanne said...

Seth, this is magnificent.

And you're right. There's something magical about having friends over for a meal.

Yesterday we got a roast chicken from the Fillipino couple on the corner. It was delicious. It wasn't as good as yours though.

We both agreed: Seth makes the best roast chicken.

Rachael said...

Fabulous. I love LOVE this post. I'm applauding in front of my computer screen.

Steve said...

I don't remember much from last from the last time I had Seth over for dinner, when he came with Karen, Jen and Toby. I heard later on that everybody had a good time, but I drank way too much wine and was out of commission.

I drank two bottles of wine. I was loud, I banged the table with my fist to emphasize certain points of conversation. I was obnoxious. I made a poor showing really.

We served weird, Jewish food. Karen ate some pickled herring. I was impressed.

I do remember forcing Seth to eat at least two whole roast chickens and drink way too much wine.

I often force people to eat and drink at my table. My wife hates this.

I also remember her yelling at me later on that night, saying that she was embarrassed and that she'll refuse to ever have anyone over again if I drink and carry on the way I did.

I think the responsible, husbandly thing to do would be to not invite my wife the next time I have Seth over for dinner.

Karen said...

I had a wonderful time that day at your house, Steve! The food was wonderful and I had fun playing with the kids. It was really nice to get a glimpse into your home. Cheers!

david said...

force seto ta eat chicken??

david said...

I guess that would be an effective way of putting your Kapparot to good use. Seth would be too preoccupied with eating those half baked salmonella infested still cackling birds to have an inkling he is devouring your annual sins.

Corey said...

My memories involving you guys and meals and wine are incredibly vivid...Seth coming down to DC and making delicious fresh sasla (purchased at Fresh Fields of course) in 310...... a dinner party at your apartment over a year ago where you made braised brussel sprouts, a delicious tempeh dish (that actually turned me on to tempeh) and amazing chicken.......I could go on but it's making me crave. Miss you terribly!

Stephanie said...

Okay, I'm officially jealous.