Food is a process

Friday, July 09, 2004

The Group

It's true that we are now six. Indre, Nick, Clementine, Luigi, Adam and I.

When I first came in, there were only the original four. They had already been deeply involved in this process of weekly dinners where one would cook for the rest in turn for about a year when I showed up on the scene. They had already surpassed the usual dinner party stages: dinner as an excuse to drink, comfort food, recipes taken from Gourmet magazine. They were at this point well into the really challenging stuff.

The chef of the evening is responsible for everything from the aperitif to the dessert, with an average of three courses in between. The guests bring the wine, which is chosen (white or red + preferred type) by the chef.

I don't even rememeber what I prepared the first time it was my turn. I was so nervous I didn't sleep the night before. I think I probably drank a little too much while I was preparing that meal. Whatever it was.

Now, I do like to cook. But this dinner party group was daunting for many reasons. One, I felt like the fifth wheel. These guys, though now I have come to love all of them dearly, scared the shit out of me. They are extremely well-educated, beautiful, talented people (and also exceptionally kind, though I was too nervous at first to realize it). Nick and Clementine were a couple. Luigi and Indre were best friends, and all four of them had spent many a night together. And I was the new girlfriend of Luigi, not sure how or if I could fit in to this seemingly sacred weekly event.

Two, everyone was in the habit of dressing up, and I had never in my life cooked wearing a skirt or any other nice thing. I am the kind of person who will find a way to douse myself in flour if I wear black, and tomato or coffee if I am wearing anything lighter than that. I drop forks, break glasses, and chop parts of my fingers off. In short, no one has ever accused me of being suave. I love to dress up as much as the next girl, but figure food into that equation and I get a little nervous.

Three, my experience cooking was decidedly limited. I have at times gotten really into baking. But my version of a meal had generally involved a dish that could be served on one plate. Like ratatouille and pasta. Simple.

But despite all of that, I thought it was an amazing opportunity, and a brilliant idea. All of us being relatively young and broke-ish, the fact that a good meal was guaranteed once a week, and the chance to challenge my own sense of what I could accomplish with food seemed to me a wonderful possibility. Not long after that, the knowledge that I would also be guaranteed good conversation and friendly faces put me at ease, and I started to really look forward to hosting.

Adam joined us shortly thereafter, rounding us out to an even six, and adding another big dose of jovial warmth. We don't actually meet as often as before, and I'm sorry for that now. It has turned out to actually be my favorite part of my new life in Los Angeles.

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