Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The Dinner Party
Last week I decided I wanted to cook a dinner for my wonderful host in Recas. You see, the first week I was here I stayed with an amazing family (you probably read about it in my earlier blogs) and they were so welcoming to me. I felt like I had a true family here that first night. So, I decided that I wanted to do something nice for them in return. Where the cooking idea came from-I have no idea. Those of you that know me well know that I DO NOT COOK. I can’t cook-I set the fire alarm off every time. In fact, the only thing I have ever baked well are brownies. My family can attest to that-I’m known for my brownies. However, that is the only thing known to man I have cooked well. Which brings me back to the cooking idea-why did I think that was good to do?
Not only did I invite a whole family over for a meal, a whole family that I desperately wanted to impress with my non-existent cooking skills, but I decided to make something that I had NEVER MADE BEFORE, chicken parmesan. WHY?! Good question. The panicking started the day before the big event. I decided I needed recipes at least-that’s a good start. Thanks to my neighbor back home, Sam, I was directed to this wonderful blog: www.thepioneerwoman.com. The author of this blog, Ree, is amazing. She has delicious recipes and pictures to match each step-perfect for me! I found a dessert to make-apple fritters, and decided on that and the chicken parm. Now-off to the store.
This part was was painless for the most part. I have a wonderful, Costco-like grocery store in Timisoara (yeah Auchan!) so that’s where I went. I did have some trouble finding baking powder and cinnamon in Romanian, but after a long and eventful conversation with a store clerk I eventually found everything and made my way back to the house. I decided to make the apple fritters the day before and heat them up in the oven the night of, as Ree told me I could do-bless that wonderful website. I have to admit-the fire alarm only went off once and the fritters were A-MAZING. No lie, I am so proud of them, it might be the first thing I’ve made my scratch. And in Romania! Go figure. With the fritters made and stored away for the next day, I felt I could take on the next day, no problem.
I awoke and it hit me. What was I thinking? What if they hate the meal? What if my chicken isn’t done right? What if the noodles are too hard?! This was the first American made meal this family had eaten, and I wanted to be damn sure they wanted to come back for a second. The pressure was on. The entire day I felt a bit anxious-I replayed the night’s schedule over and over in my head-make the sauce of first, then batter the chicken and bake those, noodles last, (no wait-cut the bread last, right?) I couldn’t get this wrong. I bought ice cream to go with the apple fritters, battered chicken breasts for the first time in eggs and flour, and went to light the oven. My gas oven. IT WOULDN’T TURN ON. Okkkkk….lesson number 1-always have a back up. After about a 30 minute trial and error period and a slight panic attack, I finally gave up and decided the chicken must be made on the stovetop. Gulp. I turned it down low, prayed that this one time I wouldn’t burn something, and went for it.
I am happy to report that not one piece of chicken was left behind. The sauce was amazing, and the noodles were just right. I waited for my guests to arrive, and sipped on some famous Recas wine in anticipation.
My guests arrived, I was nervous, and I went to serve them all water. I use a big jug of water with a pump on it, and I started pumping away. Little did I realize that the cap was on the pump spigot and when I finally realized what was going on, I went to unlatch the cap and water spilled all over the place. Epic fail 1. Then, As I was trying to speak Romanian and tell them about my day, I went to grab the salt for the boiling noodles. I shook several hefty shakes into the pot and when I looked down, realized I had just put PLENTY of pepper into the spaghetti. Fail number 2. At this point, I was embarrassed, nervous even more, but I managed to serve up the plates and sat down. Now for the moment of truth…they LOVED IT. My host mother wanted seconds as well as the recipe. My bunica (grandmother) just kept telling me how good it was and how fresh the bread was. My host brother didn’t say much just ate and ate.
For dessert, I brought out my American apple fritters and they were an even bigger hit. My brother asked me to make them again for his birthday next week. His mom then said “She can teach me and I can make them!” to which he replied in Romanian, “you can make them but they won’t be as good as Sara’s.” SUCCESS!
The night was wonderful, I even had sunflower seeds for the “after dessert” chat time. (If you ever come to Romania, make sure you know how to eat sunflower seeds. I am now the master-but that’s another story.) As they were packing up to leave, my bunica turns to me, grabs my hands with her hands, and says in Romanian, “Now dear, you are ready to marry. You obviously know how to cook.”
I’ll take it. ☺