When company’s coming and it’s not supposed to be a fussy occasion, I’m not going to be one of those hosts slaving in the kitchen and trying to pretend perfection. I would much rather spend my energies on getting edible, uncomplicated food on the table and either being with the guests or, as was the case the other night, getting out of the way of my spouse’s dinner meeting so I could enjoy reading in peace while I ate my own dinner in the other room. The people in attendance at the dinner meeting could talk business and be casual and not concern themselves with etiquette or entertaining me—or I, them—and I could even relax a bit after fixing dinner.
Pizza, in the American style, is an easy choice on such occasions. This time around, I didn’t have any guests requiring any particular dietary care: no gluten-free needs, no vegans, no special religious occasions being observed, and so forth. I didn’t have any unusual worries about any formalities. Simplicity and ease of serving were a bigger deal than being distinguished or fancy in any way, and setting up so the meeting group could take care of their own food and drink once it was served was the obvious solution. Around here, that means being able to eat without utensils if we like, and helping ourselves when we want more. Pizza. Drinks. Fruit and vegetables already cut up and served cold, with a couple of dipping sauces in case anybody wants. Lots of paper towels or serviettes or cloth napkins, whatever’s available.
And while I could fiddle around and make homemade crust, I’m kind of too old and lazy for that anymore. Horrifying, I know. You can shun me. Or you can enjoy making your own pizza crust, or hey, just join in and buy store-bought dough and save yourself a little time. I won’t even judge you if you order delivered, ready-made pizza. I just got in the mood to do my own toppings this time. So that was the only fuss I made. I let the grocery store do all of the fruit and vegetable peeling and cutting and plating in those chintzy little plastic trays, and was quite content. The pre-made pizza dough bought from the refrigerated case at the store was good enough for me, and one of the guys at the meeting even asked me if I had made it, and I didn’t lie. Credit where it’s due.
For the veg, a dip made of blended cottage cheese and whole milk yogurt (equal parts or so) seasoned with dill, thyme, salt, and smoked paprika, and a pinch of cayenne. For the fruits, a sauce of caramel—brown sugar melted in butter, with a pinch of salt, and in place of the usual cream, more yogurt. And a big hit of good quality cinnamon, for this batch. Mixed nuts and individually wrapped candies and chocolates. Cold drinks. Good friends and colleagues, and big ideas floating all around. Satisfying sustenance.