One of the things I love about St Andrews, is that students throw dinner parties. Not just casual get-togethers or potlucks, but full on, multiple-course dinners. At first, I found this concept to be too grown-up for students on a budget, but I quickly became a fan of these feasts. I have been served everything from scallops, to individual white chocolate crème brulées to imported balsamic vinegar, and usually find myself completely stuffed!
Nostalgic for these elaborate gatherings, I threw a dinner party for twelve of my fellow interns in the States this summer. We had just finished working at a ten-day outdoor festival in record-breaking heat. So, naturally I thought a celebration fitting. In my mind, I planned a lavish menu of roast lamb, cupcakes, homemade bread and a cheese course. But as luck would have it, one guest was vegetarian, and another gluten intolerant.
Being a passionate omnivore, a lover of bread, cakes and pies galore, I was stuck. What to cook?! There was the option of preparing separate meals for these two, but such a strategy only complicates things and goes against my only dinner party rule: everyone must take their shoes off, literally and figuratively. Guests need to feel comfortable, welcome and satiated. With dinner conversation often centred on food, I want the vegan and the bacon fanatic to talk about the dish they are sharing.
After scouring the Internet for artery-friendly recipes, I eventually settled on five dishes: roasted aubergine with a lemony buttermilk sauce, marinated artichoke “pizza” (with gluten-free dough), an aubergine adobo dip with rice crackers, Caesar salad (without cheese or anchovies), and hazelnut meringue strawberry cake.
Along with this ambitious menu, I was also trying to impress a boy. The shaky hands that come with this added pressure makes misshapes like a cut, burn, or collapsed meringue infinitely more likely. As a result, the pizza dough was a little hard, the buttermilk sauce was slightly runny and the hazelnut meringue did in fact collapse. Ultimately, though, none of this mattered. The food was delicious, everyone was drinking, chatting and recovering from an intense few weeks. Without a bread roll or prosciutto slice in sight, we still managed to have a wonderful meal and a great time.