Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Let them eat rice cakes?

There used to be a time when I worried about what food to serve our guests. Back then, when my house was more under control, preparing for guests meant a quick check that the sheets on the guest bed were in fact changed, a sanitizing of the bathroom, making the kitchen shine and a once-over with the vacuum. And then it was the dilemma of  - What to serve? What to serve? I'm a person who just cannot cook while someone is watching. Things burn, smoke alarms go off, food gets destroyed. The food must be prepped and ready to go, sometimes with a list of notes so I don't forget the stuff that I already have waiting in the fridge. Hosting a cooking show is not on my list of careers that got away.

By far the best place we EVER lived for entertaining guests was South Lake Tahoe. Not only did people actually want to stay with us for some reason besides a conference, an early plane reservation or a medical appointment - we had a great house for it. There was a whole upstairs area just for guests; with a bedroom, a bathroom and loft with a futon. Plus we had the use of a rarely used vacation rental on the first floor. Not being a morning person, I came up with my go-to list of do-ahead breakfast meals, all involving butter and/or cheese, sugar, maple syrup and some highly processed bread product - the kind of breakfasts that sent you back to bed for a nap. As mentioned, we had lots of guests and I got the whole cooking for crowds thing down as best  I could with my personality.

The second greatest place we lived was the guest cottage in a fancy schmancy gated enclave with ponds and fountains and flowers and gardeners that came twice a week. Two bathrooms and a bigger kitchen to move and groove in made entertaining pleasant. I did manage to set the smoke alarm off there quite often because people have a funny habit of hanging out in big kitchens talking to the hostess as she tries to prepare dinner. But the flowers and the fountains made up for the screeching alarm.

Now that my house is less than pristine on any given day, the cooking has taken a back seat to the cleaning worries when guests are expected. It seems that as each year passes, it takes me an hour longer to get this place in shape. Seeing as our wedding presents are now old enough to order drinks in a bar, those hours are adding up. Our guests are now the ones with the dilemma. "What in the world are the militant vegan, tofu-eating, Rice Dream-guzzling, green smoothie-making culinary monks going to serve me?" The people that know us well know the drill. BYOB&P&E&DP&JF (Bring your own beef and poultry and eggs and dairy products and junk food) That is the case of our friend coming tonight. Although it is hard to be fully prepared for the realities of our new eating plan, I think he at least has a clue.

After he leaves, it is a quick change of the sheets for another guest tomorrow. We don't know much about him, just that he is from Seattle or Portland or someplace green and cool, that we met him once and will probably recognize him when we see him and that he speaks English but is learning Romanian like we are. That is all we really need to know. But does he know how ghastly hot it is here? Does he know we have a dog who steals socks and other unmentionables? Does he know he must bring his own butter or margarine or yellow spread of choice? Does he know our line-dried towels are stiff as boards? That we don't watch TV? Will he ever want to come back? Would I?

Be our guest! The gated enclave it is not, but we love this neighborhood.