Company’s Coming: How To Distract House Guests With Food.
Recently we had house guests and I’m still recovering.
You know how it is — visitors can be exhausting. Especially when one of said visitors is likely judging every life choice you’ve made since you vacated her premises. But hey. That’s what parents do. How else would they know whether to take credit for your accomplishments or blame the other parent for your vices? (YouknowIloveyoumom.)
But the truth is, Justin and I really like having guests. Sometimes military life can make you feel incredibly isolated from family and friends, so whenever a loved one decides to visit (which is much more frequent now that we’ve vacated “Fayettenam” and moved to Coastal Virginia), we dive into super hyperactive excitement mode for about a week prior to their arrival. This involves attempting to scrub the house down to its studs (surprise, the Domestiphobe is terrible at deep cleaning — windows are the worst), squeeze in any simple-to-intermediate home updating projects we can, narrow down a list of nearby (and sometimes not-so-nearby) sites to visit, and of course, plan a solid menu of meals to make for our gracious guests. And by “we dive into super hyperactive excitement mode,” I mean “I dive into super hyper active excitement mode” and then constantly point out things Justin could do to help. He loves it.
Don’t judge me.
So of course we’re usually exhausted before our visitors even arrive.
And this time we had a visitor before our visitors. My dear friend Erin — the one with whom I’ve rappelled waterfalls, chased monkeys, and cooked Costa Rican hot sauce — is moving across the country, and she included me in her rounds of People Important Enough To Say Goodbye To In Person.
And you know it’s not a proper sendoff without cocktails, old-timey bonnets, John Lennon glasses, and a stint in the stocks in Colonial Williamsburg.
Or at least that’s how we do it.
What? That’s not normal?
So when Erin left, I was slightly hung over and trying to figure out how to squeeze a week’s worth of super hyperactive excitement mode into a mere three days. And it was extra stressful because when your mother is coming to visit you for the second time in twelve years and you’re a thirty-two-year-old woman with no children, no 401(k), and no published novel, your newly finished laundry room and impressive newfound cooking skills are all you have, people.
And we didn’t finish the laundry room.
It’s a good thing I married a man who looks good in uniform and knows how to make cheesecake, otherwise I’d be a complete failure at this daughtering business.
My mother and her boyfriend (partner? lovah?) — what word do you use for long-time committed adults in a romantic relationship that doesn’t sound juvenile or asexual or just sexual? — came to stay for ten days, and in that time we explored parts of two states and one district, drove approximately 700 miles, walked at least 47, toured several major U.S. landmarks, ate all of the food, and fell in love with our region of this state just a little bit more.
Of course the nights we just chilled were probably my favorite — nights spent reconnecting with people I love over good food and great wine is the most enjoyable thing to do on the planet.
(My mom loves having her picture taken.)
That night we had grilled steaks with mashed cauliflower and grilled asparagus with balsamic butter sauce.
Justin’s tip for restaurant-quality grilled steaks: A simple sprinkling of salt, pepper, and dried oregano. That’s it. Sear on a hot grill and leave ’em pink in the middle.
I spent much of that ten days introducing Ed and my mom to new types of food — most minus red meat — and showing them it’s worth the effort to cook from scratch (and increase their budget for cheese). We re-visited some of Justin’s and my favorites:
My Favorite Salad
This is great with Bosc pears in the fall and all apple in the summer. Probably be even better with homemade poppyseed dressing.
Chickpea, Avocado, & Feta Salad
Simple and delicious! She has a very similar sandwich recipe too. No mayo necessary. Also good with goat cheese instead of Feta.
Spinach, Feta, Turkey Burgers
We usually top with a basil aioli (mayo, lemon juice, and chopped fresh basil)
Mediterranean Couscous Salad
I make the broth with vegetable “better than bouillon” to keep it vegetarian and Israeli couscous because I like the texture better than regular couscous. (Israeli couscous has bigger balls — ha!) Can substitute good (not pre-crumbled) feta for the ricotta salata cheese if you can’t find it. Use good extra virgin olive oil!!
Black Bean Burgers
We eat these often. Use kaiser rolls as buns and toast them on a griddle/grill. Garnish with ripe avocado and a “spicy” aioli (mayo mixed with Sriracha sauce)
California Veggie Sandwiches
Another favorite. We like these with yellow squash, zucchini, and red onion. Grill our saute your veggies. Also good with goat cheese instead of feta.
Smoked Salmon Linguine
A splurge meal.
We made sure to eat out plenty, too.
“I can’t get over how much your schedules revolve around food!” my mom exclaimed more than once during the trip.
I asked her if she even reads my blog, then sent her off with a hug and a list of recipes. When it comes to parents, you can only teach them so much and then hope you raised them right.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the role food plays in my life — as fuel for my body, as a way to experience world cultures, as an experiment in socialization. If anything, I see its importance only increasing over the years, and I’m excited to have a partner who feels exactly the same way. We may not have kids, but we do have chops.
And for now, I’m perfectly okay with that.