Friday, November 30, 2012

The Staff Dinner, part. 1
 
I did it again. Laura at reception handed me one of those long scraps of paper with a save-the-date on it. There was to be an apertivo/cocktail hour at a bar near my house this Friday night to be followed by a staff dinner. I could not bear the thought of sitting at a table in a noisy restaurant, not getting any of the in-jokes or even the gist of any of the conversations, and watching even the new hires guffawing like part of the family while I nibbled at something by my lonesome. So I -- you guessed it -- offered to have the dinner at my house. I went so far as to offer without asking F first, which was bad. Really bad, given the fact that he would most likely be cooking the dinner. I justified that they wouldn't accept anyway. But um they did.

Then F told me he was working that night. Until eight.

The dinner, it turned out, was to start at nine.

I called Patrizia.

Patrizia, who takes food seriously, told me that this was too important to discuss over the phone. She told me she would give me a ride to work since she lives right behind my gym. She talked me through the classic dishes you can cook in advance and told me how to save money at the supermarket and what brands to buy. She talked me out of a lasagna and into pasta al forno which is the same as a lasagna but made with regular pasta so you don't have to lay it all out like a patient being bandaged on Dr. House. We added bruschetta and cous cous to the menu and then I found out that one of my colleagues is allergic to cheese, but in the nick of time to put some cheeseless pasta to the side.

Today I helped F to prepare the dinner. He cooked the pasta only halfway and made all of the sauces, including a red wine sauce for the cous cous, a tomato sauce for the pasta and a pesto for the other pasta. He made a killer, creamy beschamel to mix with the pesto, but I cooked the onions, artichokes and olives for the cous cous and helped with the seasonings and coating all of the pasta with sauce in the huge aluminum tins he got from Esselunga. He made a red wine chocolate cake and started the dough for the bread.

At work there was a mix of skepticism and skepticism, covered over with humor, or what passes as such. They trotted out the pizza dinner I did for the women of the gym. Remember that time that I had all the ladies over and  forgot that our Barbie oven would prevent us from getting enough out for everyone to eat at one time? I spent the whole night counting out slices and delivering them to my colleagues in a circular pattern from thirty small pies that F made on the spot. They were swallowed in single gulps. No eating disorders among the staff, that I can see, anyway. Then today my supervisor told me that one of the trainers is deathly allergic to cheese and he would hate for me to be offended since this gentleman had in mind to order a pizza for himself (cheese-less, I gather) rather than risk eating the unknown. I reassured him and my lactose intolerant workmate and called F at the same time. Then fellow trainer Mauro asked me a for a menu plan and when I told it to him, he said not to worry he would bring the meat, even though he knows all too well that we are vegetarians. 

I came home today with a throat that is swollen closed, a huge pimple right between my eyes and another one on my chin, and tomorrow I am supposed to go to meet with T's new Spanish teacher and then teach three classes back to back and then maybe get a ride home from Patrizia so she can coach me through phase two. I hear there is now a branch of Eataly, the Italian mega store masterminded by Chef Mario Batali, not only in New York and in Los Angeles, but also in Rome. I wonder if they deliver?

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