A few minutes ago, I found out that the three-course dinner I will be hosting Wednesday has grown to 30 attendees.
I was expecting 15.
Which was already a little ambitious.
And, for that matter: forks.
But, in this life, we all get adrenaline rushes in different ways. And I can tell you that cooking either for a lot of people and/or preparing a crazy number of courses is how I get myself amped up to supersonic level.
Granted, it would be a lot more convenient if I could simply achieve go-mode in a normal way. For example, many people can regularly achieve a high by running a race or even just running for pleasure on the road. Wouldn’t that be nice?
The one time I think I got runner’s high was about 17 years ago (gulp, I’m getting old), and I was on mile 9 of my first half marathon. I was crossing a bridge on Pembina Highway — I so distinctly remember this — and suddenly, I felt lighter, even … bouncy. The doubt that had followed behind me like Pig-Pen’s dirt cloud suddenly disappeared, and I started knowing I would be able to finish. Quickly, I started running faster. And then I started running faster still. And I kept running fast until I reached mile 13 and turned into University of Manitoba’s oval track and crossed the finish line.
It was great. Whew, my god, but that felt great.
I have been waiting 17 years for that to happen again.
I’ve stopped crossing my fingers.
But, when it comes to hosting a meal, I always feel a similar kind of rush. Bouncy, elevated heart rate, knowing what I have to do, not completely certain I can, but willing to die trying. My husband will argue this translates to me being “bossy” and “snippy.” I consider it simply “focused” and “directive.”
It’s made me realize that a serious belief that you will fail is crucial to the classic adrenaline rush. Like, you’ve got to be pretty 50/50 on whether this will happen, and if/when it does, the failure has got to be pretty big.
In the running world, the great fear, I believe, is your G.I. system will crash and you’ll poop your pants in front of all the people standing on the side of the road to cheer you on.
I think we’ll all agree that would pretty much be the worst thing ever in the world, thanks for coming, it’s over forever, the end, the end, the end.
With a cooking rush, the fear is that you’ll mess everything up and you’ll have nothing to feed your guests. An equally concerning scenario is that your guests all go home and get food poisoning.
On Wednesday, I’ll be putting together a salad with apples and parmesan; turkey apricot meatloaf with mashed potatoes; and a citrus blanc manger for dessert, which is like panna cotta but French. I feel reasonably comfortable with all of it, except that I’ve never quintupled most of the recipes before and that always comes with a risk.
To accommodate the food, I’ll have to get a little scrappy in the dishes department. I’ll have to serve on paper plates and use plastic cutlery, but an hour ago, in digging through my cupboards, I realized me and the peddlers mall have been waiting our whole lives to serve this many people beverages in our house. I even have 30 pretty, little glasses that can house the blanc manger.
That gave me the kind of satisfaction that Great Depression hoarders must feel when they realize they actually do need to use all the twist ties they’ve been saving for 60 years.
The dinner is for the medical students and residents who train at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital. A few years ago, Dr. Joe Weigel developed the program with University of Pikeville and Lincoln Memorial University, and it’s been a great success.
My husband William is even a professor now, known for occasionally giving the advice “Don’t feel like you have to speak” to students who prematurely ask a lot of questions.
Anyway, earlier this year, I thought it would be nice to give something back to these students who are living and working in our community and adding a nice, hopeful dimension to our area. Happily, the first gathering was well-received, and now I know word has spread a little.
And so now: I cook. I’ve never done anything like this for 30 people before, but it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be Game On. And when I look around and see all of these whip-smart young students dining in our home, I’m going to feel like I’m exactly where I should be.