30 Oct 2010

His Girl Friday Throws A Dinner Party

This is an account of Day 5 of the 50s Housewife Experiment: Husband Obsessed Edition.

Getting this out later than usual - major issues with Blogger today!

This week, my offers to help Patrick with his work were smiled at but not taken particularly seriously. As it was only his second week at the new office, he was really only just getting a sense of what he was expected to do there, let alone show his untrained-in-his-field wife how she could pitch in. Plus, I had never actually directly helped him with his work in the history of our relationship and he really didn't want to be bothered with the hassle of explaining the basics to me.

The suggestion that a 50s housewife help by transcribing her husband's notes and correspondence, run errands for his clients, research for him at the library or make a copy of his schedule in an at-home diary generally aren't realistic options for most modern spouses, in large part because of the technology now available to us (Need a Girl Friday? There's an app for that.).

I was also thwarted in my attempts to be non-jealous and kind to his secretary as, like most people today, he doesn't have a secretary. I think it was sometime in the early 90s that offices had less of a demand for people in the "bowl of roses" field (this isn't to say that there aren't some great, hard-working executive assistants out there, of course!).

Advice to subtly cozy-up to the boss's wife also couldn't be followed up on, as Patrick's boss is, in fact, a woman (*Gasp!* What will the neighbours think?). To my knowledge, she does not have a wife, although anything is thankfully possible here in Canada.

So, what's a husband-obsessed wife to do? Thanks to 'lizing' (and, well, using my ears), I discovered that Patrick manages a UK division for his company. With this in mind, I woke up early yesterday morning and went to a neighbourhood newsstand to see if I could find a British newspaper. Understanding the issues of the day in the UK would surely give him some sort of edge at his job and show that I've been listening, right?

Unfortunately, no newspapers from Mother England were available - so I did the next best thing: I found something in our home that would hopefully allow him to better understand the British people.

Eccentric spinsters in wedding dresses, life as a blacksmith, orphans named Pip - Great Expectations is indeed a handy snapshot of life in the UK. Well done, me!

You'll also note in that picture is a half of grapefruit that I was able to negotiate onto Patrick's breakfast plate. And wouldn't you know it - he liked it. Grapefruit is off the list of things my husband won't eat! Hurrah!

My assistance in Patrick's career didn't end there. I had thought to myself, "what endears a person to others?" The answer was to give Patrick's colleagues something that has universal appeal: midget porn free food. Since peanut allergies hadn't yet been invented (heh), I made peanut butter brownies for Patrick to share with the office. He literally called me within 20 minutes of being at work to excitedly mention that the brownies had been gobbled up and appreciated by his co-workers, and that he was grateful to use the unexpected treat as a chance to go up to people in his company that he hadn't yet had a chance to really chat with. I don't know if it was because until that point my highest achievement during the week had been mastering a new way to fold towels, but I genuinely felt proud that I was able to help him in this way.

Not one to rest on my laurels, I got on with the tasks of the day which included arranging a rather impromptu dinner party for six that evening. Before I could get too far in my planning, Patrick was home for lunch.

Emotional! Antennae! Activated! Husband Status: FRIDAY! FRIDAY! FRIDAY!

Oh-so happy was he. He spent lunch (which was mainly leftovers reshuffled into sandwich form) chatting about his new colleagues and his plans to have a quick visit with his old colleagues shortly after work - but with enough time to be home well before our 8pm dinner party.

After he left to go back to the office, I returned to my cookbooks to piece together the elements of the evening. I wanted to serve cocktails and punch, a few hors d'oeuvres, a salad course, the main entree and then an interesting dessert. I finally settled on some recipes from the Good Housekeeping's 10 P.M. Cook Book (which, if you've been reading this blog, you're likely aware of the ridiculousness within it) Good Housekeeping's special edition Christmas Cook Book, the Esquire Cook Book. While doing this, I did another clean of the surfaces, washed the napkins and tablecloth for the table, and ran the blessed dishwasher to ensure we had enough clean cutlery and plates for the evening. I then had to hit the grocery store and butcher to get everything I needed for the dinner. Patrick had offered to swing by the liquor store on his way home from seeing his old coworkers, so that aspect was thankfully off my list of to-dos.

Fast-forward several hours and things are not going as swimmingly as I had hoped. The food was taking longer to prepare than I imagined it would. The mess in the kitchen had encroached onto nearly every work surface. The curls in my hair had fallen and my make-up had melted off. The table hadn't been properly set ...

And the greatest frustration inducer? Patrick still wasn't home and it was already 7:30pm.

Perhaps not having my husband's help whatsoever made this evening more authentically 50s, but it also made me feel extra panicked about getting everything done on time (which was also probably a real feeling experienced by 50s hostesses). I tried to remind myself that our invited guests (Patrick's friend, Barry, his wife Brigitte, Patrick's brother, Jason, and his girlfriend Hana) were friends and family who wouldn't judge if things weren't perfect - but on the flip side, I kept thinking about how I had been hyping up some kind of 1950s experience only to have our guests arrive at The Home of Rage, Chaos and ... inexplicably, Paul Anka (the musical soundtrack for the night? That, I was able to complete no problem - go figure).

At 7:50pm, Patrick finally showed up with the liquor - just as one of our dinner guests also arrived.

Emotional! Antennae! Activated! Husband Status: Terrified of this wife.

I don't know if he was using his own Emotional Antennae on me or if common sense had just finally kicked in, but Patrick knew right away that things were not cool between he and I. That was an understatement. In reality, I felt like emptying the contents of my purse into the Nag Jar and getting my money's worth out of an epic verbal wailing on him.

Instead, I gathered every fabric of restraint I could muster. This wasn't because of any kind of 1950s marital advice, but because our company had just arrived and fighting in front of other people is something I try to avoid doing as it just makes the other people feel uncomfortable. With that in mind, I'll stop throwing Patrick under the bus on this blog post and simply say the evening got off to a disappointing start (but he and I were totally fine with each other within about 20 minutes after he came home - I am not the type who holds onto anger to spite someone else).

Our cocktail offerings for our guests included:

  • Deviled eggs
  • Meat Roll-ups (ham smeared with a cream cheese mixture - cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, diced onions - rolled up and sliced into little logs and topped with a cherry tomato or olive - held together with a toothpick)
  • A cheese ball with crackers
  • Mini gherkins
  • Olives
  • Cranberry Sparkle punch (complete with an ice ring of sliced lemons and cranberries)
  • BOOZE (a selection of vodka, gin, scotch, red wine and beer)
I was so busy when our guests arrived that I actually forgot to take a picture of the cocktails - but here's what the Meat Roll-ups look like:

Cocktailed up, we headed for the dinner table and started on a course of french bread and Ruby Cheese Salad (a green salad with pickled beets and Roquefort cheese). The entree then consisted of Glazed Minted Carrots, Pommes De Terre Aux Champignons Marguery (mushrooms, butter, shallots, chives cooked with boiled potatoes), Rosemary Chicken on the Bone with gravy. Super blurry pictures below!

All was gobbled up quite happily. We then took a little break and the smokers in our group had an after-dinner cigarette (but unlike true 50s homes, they actually went outside. I didn't think about this until after the fact, but I don' think there's enough Febreze in the world to turn my home into an ashtray).

When they returned and drinks were topped off, I made dessert - Banana Flambe. This super sugary dish is very easy to make and super impressive to serve thanks to the fire factor. Once you make your dish (bananas cooked in a sugar syrup, then cooked in an apricot and brandy mixture, then served with vanilla ice cream), you place a couple lemon extract-soaked sugar cubes on it. You then light the cubes and watch as they give off a cool blue flame (the picture doesn't really do it justice). From all of our excitement and oohs and ahhs, you would have thought I had just announced I was giving everyone a FREEEEE CAAAAAARRRRRR (said in Oprah's bellow).

Dessert eaten, it was onto coffee, more booze, and chit-chat. Like a good hostess should, I then introduced the group to a parlor game called The Name Game.

I don't know if The Name Game was around in the 1950s, but since it only requires paper and pencils (or pen), it very well could have. It's an exceptionally fun and easy game to pull off, so I'll share it with you all here:
  1. Each person gets a piece of paper and a pen. On that piece of paper, they write and tear off the names of five individuals (or ten or three or whatever - base it on the size of your group; the more people playing, the less number of names each person writes). These individuals need to be famous or most-likely known by everyone in the group. These names can be of celebrities, politicians, fictional characters, a friend everyone knows, etc. It's generally considered douchey to put down the name of someone very few people know ("What do you mean you've never heard of Emperor Go-Daigo? He was only, like, one of the most important Japanese leaders of the 13th century!"). This game is not a means to justify and give relevance to your frivolous arts or history degree.
  2. Each name is then folded up and put into a bowl.
  3. The group is divided into two teams. In our case, we went girls vs. boys.
  4. One team goes first. One person from the team pulls a piece of paper out of the bowl. She then has to describe the name on the piece of paper without using the proper name of another person. For example, if she selected the name "Vince the ShamWow Guy" she could not say, "This infomercial king is in league with Satan." Instead, she would say something like "He's in infomercials and he beat a hooker up after she bit his tongue." Her team members have to guess the answer - the other team can't also guess.
  5. When a name is guessed successfully, she pulls another name from the bowl. She has a total of one minute to have her team guess as many names correctly as possible. If no one is guessing from the clues she's giving, she stuck with it and has to keep going (you can't "pass").
  6. Count the number of names guessed. Set these pieces of paper aside (do not throw them out!).
  7. The bowl is then given to the other team and they have one minute to guess as many names as they can using the same rules as above.
  8. The bowl goes back and forth until all the pieces of paper have been gone through. The total scores are added up.
  9. ROUND 2: Put all the pieces of paper back in the bowl. This time around, players must guess the person's name with a clue of only one word. Back to our earlier example, someone might say "infomercial" or "hooker" or "creep" for ShamWow Vince. This round occurs just like the earlier one did (one minute per team to go through as many as they can, tallying up the score).
  10. ROUND 3: Put all the pieces of paper back in the bowl. For this final round, players can only use silent clues (charades) to guess the names on the pieces of paper. To again use our example of Vince, a person might put on their most dirt-bagged expression, cradle their tongue and indicate a rapidly deflating boner. Continue as you have in previous rounds. The team with the most combined points wins!
Try it - I swear it's a totally fun game, especially if you have creative people in your midst!

After playing The Name Game and polishing off many bottles of wine, our guests made their way home. Was the dinner party a success? If a high level of drunkenness is a factor, then our dinner was the Warren Buffet, Richard Branson and Judd Apatow of parties. To quote my brother-in-law, he had to "shower sitting down" this morning.

Today is a mellower day at Chez Byck but not without its own interesting happenings, which I'll let you know about tomorrow. Have a happy Saturday!

Image Source: KickyBoots


Anonymous,  10:47 pm, October 30, 2010  

Ooo! I want to try that flambe trick! And the name game! And this entire experiment!

MMM,  2:08 am, October 31, 2010  

50s project or not, I would have killed my husband if he didn't help me with a dinner party..but you're right that fighting in front of other people sucks. Glad it worked out in the end.

ChefJoAnna[@]gmail[.]com 3:34 am, October 31, 2010  

I'm looking forward to see how your husband makes it up to you for being Jerky McJerkmeister and turning up late to his own dinner party.

P. S. e-mail me for a totally effective but non-nagging strategy to make him understand that being late and breaking promises to be on time are NOT acceptable (don't want to post it here, as he might read it... does he read your blogs & the comments?)

Trish,  9:53 pm, October 31, 2010  

You don't know me, but can I please be a guest at one of your dinner parties? Also, I nearly cried laughing thinking about the charade version of Vince the ShamWow guy.

paiiige 5:22 pm, November 01, 2010  

one: i love the Name Game, and played about 100 rounds of it at the cottage this summer with my former university roommates and i started to notice that almost every round had at least 2 or 3 double sets of names. would be interesting to see how the game really taps into your subconscious and makes groups of close-knit people start thinking in the same way...

two: have you read 50s housewife classic "The Torontonians"? (have i already commented this? sorry!)

Jen 3:03 pm, November 02, 2010  

Ha - yes, I don't think Patrick will be late to his own party again.

ChefJoAnna - I'm intrigued (and yes, he reads the blog)!

Paiiige - we also had repeat names just in our little group! Crazy. And yes, I ordered the Torontonians after you recommended it to me but then totally forgot to pick it up at the library. Ordering it again!

stevenjared0853 1:45 am, December 05, 2016  

Truly an awesome dinner party and loved this name game. It reminded me of my friend’s dinner party at one of Los Angeles venues and all us old friends were invited there. We too enjoyed few games there and had lip-smacking delicious food.

Unknown 5:17 am, August 16, 2017  

I realize that nothing is fair but I'm still trying. I just want to do my best and what is possible

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