Despite the soggy biryani and Haresh spilling red wine all over my kilm, last night's dinner party was a famous success. I believe my guests will be fondly remember last night as a perfect blend of South Asian hospitality, a cozy ambience, and highly intellectual conversations.
I had invited 2 couples and 1 single friend and although I have 6-seat dining table, I had seemingly forgotten how to add and kept telling Haresh that of course we have enough places on the dining table. I only realised that I had invited one person too many when we were ready to sit down and eat. But thankfully, we had another chair and were only too happy to squeeze around the table. I guess I got overexcited thinking up an eclectic and interesting group of guests.
The guest list included an American couple who first came to Liberia with the Peace Corps in the 1970s and have been back and forth since. They have been back in Liberia consistently again since 2003. The second couple is from Nepal who we first met because of a Nepalese motor cyclist, Furtemba Sherpa, who has been traveling the world by road since 2003. We met our friends at an even organised by the Nepalese UNMIL Peacekeeping Contingent in Bushrod Island in October 2013 and have been friends since then. The final guest is an Australian journalist who has been living in Liberia since 2011, I believe.
I really wanted to spend more time with these folks one on one and, I thought, why not invite them home instead of going out to a restaurant and impress them with my cooking skills?
This was a week night dinner party on a Thursday. I came home a bit earlier than usual to get started on cooking. I had found a chicken biryani recipe the night before so I wanted to try it. Besides that, we had a green salad and aloo kebabs. I was also planning on baking the famous Seriously Rich Chocolate Cake which I have successfully made before.
Christiana, my housekeeper, had diligently bought and cleaned 2 chickens. She also bought lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley and mint for the salad and it was washed and ready to be chopped into a salad. She had also boiled some potatoes like I had asked her. Ginger and garlic was already chopped, in separate containers, as usual in the fridge. You would think I would have not fallen behind but I was actually in the kitchen from 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM.
Haresh came in the kitchen at about 6:00 PM and, was stealing some cookies from the cookie jar. I told him I will probably need some help. He had a melt down and said, he's had a crazy busy day and needed to go for a beauty nap before the guests arrived. I didn't have enough time to yell at him and lecture him about his duties at the office and at the house.
I don't know how but I fell behind and felt quite overwhelmed with how ambitious I wanted to be.
The LEC went off at about 7:30 PM and we turned the generator on. There's almost no difference because the generator is now in the backyard and one can only hear a background hum but one is constantly aware of it and, in a sense, always at unease.
I would blame this particular biryani recipe for all the time I spent in the kitchen. I got a little confused over all the pots that had to be transferred. And, it was clear after a while it was going to be a very soggy briyani.
During this time, our guests came in now and then to offer help. I never know how to ask for help when I am hosting a dinner party. The original plan is to be all done, showered, perfumed, enjoying some jazz or ghazals and waiting with a glass of wine in hand to welcome guests. Seeking help is never part of the plan. And, what help can I possibly seek other than apologising in advance "Folks, fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a soggy biryani."
My Nepali friend came in while I was making some serious chocolate cake. She and I chatted about her daughter's escapades in high school.
We finally settled down to dinner and despite my soggy biryani, everyone liked the food. Even better, the cake was gobbled up. All of it.
We ended the evening with a couple rounds of Balderdash. My favourite answer was "The story of the guy who invented the hula hoop" to the movie name "No one believed me."