We're down to only about five regular guests these days, but there are several more on our invite list who generally don't come. This weekend, since Eli and Deanna were in town, we moved Sunday dinner to lunch so that they could attend, and invited Carl as well as our usual invitees. And then the Placeways and the Maltzes accepted our invitation, so we were up to twelve guests.
Twelve guests is a lot, but manageable. Our table claims a maximum of ten people with the leaves extended, but we know from experience that we can fit twelve in. And we had twelve place settings of our china and silverware.
But then the Morrissons said they would be arriving, bringing the total to fourteen. This complicated matters.
So we planned a menu: Lemon Chicken Primavera (I wanted something springlike), bread and salad.
I'd planned a Strawberry Lemon Curd Tart, but that seemed too little for fourteen, so I planned a strawberry rhubarb pie as well. Lori, Eli, and I took a pleasant trip down to the Strip for our shopping during the afternoon Saturday. I made the lemon curd Saturday night before bed.
Sunday morning, Lori went off to church and I started baking. I made the strawberry rhubarb pie first--there seemed to be a lot of filling, so I made it in our deep-dish pie pan. Several people were very impressed by the size of the pie. Once Eli came downstairs, we worked on cutting up things for the pasta and preparing for the crowd:
- We extended the table by moving the work table from the living room in to make a T at the head of the kitchen table. (I'd called around unsuccessfully seeking a card table, but this table ended up being a better fit than a card table would have been.)
- We deployed the last set of four place settings of china from our wedding gifts.
- We brought up the backup set of 12 place settings of silverware, and washed those.
- We washed more sets of wedding-gift glasses.
We were not quite ready with food when people arrived, but we were not too late. We served the big bowl of pasta first, and then the salad later, because there was no room on the table for people to have pasta bowls and salad plates at once. It was crowded around the table, but quite convivial, with lots of pleasant conversation. (Despite the claim on a bag of salad that one bag is four servings, the fourteen of us had a few leftovers from two bags.) The pasta came out quite nicely; I would certainly be willing to prepare it again. (And it wasn't too big a hassle to double the recipe, which has not been true of every recipe.)
One nice benefit of making the strawberry-rhubarb pie: it was non-dairy, so we could serve it an hour or so after serving the pasta without violating Monica's kosher restrictions. I deftly passed the buck on dividing up the pie to someone else, which made things easier on me. This was the first time I'd cooked with rhubarb; I think the pie came out very nicely. (It ended up serving thirteen; Lori had left, and somehow we failed to save a piece for her.)
The strawberry-rhubarb pie would probably have been a sufficient dessert, and indeed people started leaving thereafter. But it would be a shame to let good homemade lemon curd go to waste, so I made a tart shell for the strawberry lemon-curd tart anyway. We feared the dessert plates might have been licked by the cats, so we served the tart on saucers; we had just enough dessert forks to give everybody a new fork. The tart came out extremely nice--the flavors were really bright and springlike. Mmm. (It served ten, without any leftovers.)
It took three loads in the dishwasher to wash all the dishwashable dishes from the dinner. And now, we have more clean silverware than will fit in our drawer, and we need to devise a solution.
Even with the hassles, though, I feel really quite cool about our ability to host a dinner for fourteen, at one table, with matching china and silverware. I feel that most households would reach their limit long before that, and I'm really glad that we can handle that sort of big gathering. (I found myself thinking about Lori's stories of her grandmother's big gatherings. I can't remember ever having a sit-down gathering this size in my family.)
For more people than this, though, we would probably end up splitting into two rooms, and quite likely using plastic plates and cutlery. We'd have a lot more trouble making the dinner we had stretch to seventeen people.