Archives for Dining Out

To cook or not to cook: When guests arrive

I greatly enjoy cooking for other people. I think a good meal has the ability to bring people together, tell a story, introduce new flavors, and can be a lot of fun. It’s my way of sharing a part of me with my friends and family.

Unfortunately, cooking for other people can be stressful if you are pressed for time and ideas. The demands of the task can especially feel overwhelming when a recipe goes awry or when trying to coordinate plates to come out at the same time. The first time I cook for someone also affects my nerves more so than the fifth or tenth time I’ve had someone to dinner.

I’m of the opinion that a host or hostess should be with guests during a dinner party instead of in the kitchen, tending to the stove. A gathering should be fun for everyone, not everyone except for the cook. So, before creating a menu, I ask myself questions such as:

  • Why are we having the party?
  • Can I make a meal that shares who I am with my guests?
  • Do these recipes work together, can I easily obtain the ingredients, have I made these items before, is this a menu everyone will enjoy?
  • Will I stress out so much that I won’t have a good time, too?
  • Will my guests be offended if I don’t make the meal?
  • Would a restaurant or carry out do a better job than I would in this specific situation?
  • What is my schedule like tomorrow? Can I stay up after guests have gone to clean up, or do I need to go to bed right away to get as much sleep as possible?

Most times I end up cooking the meal, but sometimes I let a restaurant take care of the heavy lifting. How do you decide if you will cook a meal or treat guests to dinner at a restaurant? I’m interested in reading your thoughts on this issue in the comments.

What food represents you?

Whenever I’m in my hometown, I insist on stopping for at least one meal at a particular Mexican-American restaurant. The place is family-owned and operated, the food is always fresh, the restaurant is clean, the service is good, and the recipes haven’t changed much in 29 years.

The restaurant isn’t fancy — you tell the person at the counter what you want, you pay for your order, and a few minutes later a woman next to the beverage dispenser calls your number when your food is ready. This isn’t a place you take someone you’re trying to impress. It’s the equivalent of your corner bar or a favorite book. It’s a known quantity that makes you feel at home.

I have my standard order, as most people do at their hometown haunts. I get two Light Tacos (Tacos Ligero) without lettuce, but add black olives, and a medium root beer. The “Light” in Light Tacos is a bit misleading, as it means the flour shell is deep fried and flaky, not that it is light on calories.

To be honest, the Light Tacos are as much nostalgia as they are beef, cheese, sour cream, and hot sauce. I remember eating these tacos every day for lunch during the second semester of my senior year of high school, while crowded into a booth with my best friends. I remember eating them before football games on Friday nights and on Sunday afternoons with my family. On a recent visit to my hometown, my son had his first bites of Mexican food here.

If I were to identify one food as the food to best represent who I am, it would be the Light Taco from Tortilla Jack’s. It’s the food I am at heart.

What food best represents you? Share your stories in the comments.