A few years ago, I started a Shavuot tradition of hosting my family for a buffet lunch. A buffet, because my apartment is too small to host large numbers of people to a sit-down meal, and lunch, because it gives me more time to prepare for it. This year, however, I departed from tradition, and moved the meal (still buffet-style) to the eve of Shavuot.
Previous attempts have often skirted disaster, only to triumph in the end. This time, the only ripple in my preparations occurred on Thursday when, after I had already planned the menu and done my shopping, I was informed by my sister that she would be bringing with her two, or possibly three house-guests whom my eldest nephew had invited to stay for the festival. These were young American college students here on the Taglit/Birthright programme. I always worry, when I plan these family meals, whether there will be enough food and so now, with two – or possibly three – unexpected guests, I worried even more.
As usual – I need not have. In the event, only two came, so we were fourteen in all. Besides which, my sisters rallied round. Naomi made an extra lasagna, in addition to the quiche she had already promised, Yael made her wonderful, melt-in-the-mouth cheesecake (for some reason, my own cheese flan, made to my late mother’s recipe, seems to be less popular, except with my father), my stepmother contributed a cold potato salad with tiny potatoes cooked in their jackets (I also made a potato salad, with added onions and peas) and the salmon which I had prepared (and served chilled) turned out (even if I say so myself), quite perfect. The trick is to turn off the oven at precisely the right moment so as to allow the fish to continue cooking in its own heat, without overcooking and drying out. As usual, I made two dishes – one, with my now traditional sour cream dressing (delicately flavoured with thyme) and one, in a light coating of olive oil with garlic and rosemary. I had intended to use fresh rosemary from my stepmother’s herb garden but I forget to take some when I was over there the evening before, so I used dried rosemary from my larder. Next time, I may just go downstairs and pluck a sprig from one of the many rosemary bushes that grow wild all over the neighbourhood! (I had also bought cheese bourekas for the little ones, having been told that was all they would eat. In the event – they wouldn’t touch them!) To round off the meal (and also, I admit, to pad it out in case the main course proved insufficient), I made an egg and avocado salad and a garden vegetable salad and also put a tub of labaneh (to which I had added a few drops of olive oil and a sprinkling of za’atar) on the table.
Dessert comprised – besides the cheesecake – a fruit salad made by Yours Truly with 13 different ingredients (the fruits of summer are just coming into season) and ice cream for the little ones.
All in all, the evening passed off very well and I think I can give myself another pat on the back. I am well on the way to becoming “the Hostess with the Mostest” 😉
A thought has occurred to me. After I retire, maybe I should take a cookery course, just for fun…