Growing up, my grandmother threw huge parties. Dinner parties, wine tastings, political events… you name it, she hosted it. Partly because my grandfather owned a wine shop and imported affordable French wine long before anyone else did, partly because she knew all these gourmet chefs and they were always interested in eating well. In fact, just for fun I did a little google search with my grandfather’s name and the name of his store and came across this article. It’s a conversation from September 2005 with Tom Scheisser who is a buyer for a local wine store. And he mentions both my grandfather and his store. I’ll put the direct quote here (FB is the interviewer):
FB: That’s quite a devoted franchise career. You’re as rare as Carl Yastrzemski!
TS: Yes, as the youngsters move up the ranks, I’m now regarded as one of “the old guard” along with people like Roger Ormon (Brookline Liquor Mart), Doug Shaw (MS Walker), Carmine Martignetti (Martignetti Liquors/Carolina Wine), Dellie Rex (formerly an educator at Boston University, now New England Culinary Institute).
FB: Yes, you go back to Myron Norman, who, in his wineshop by Justin Freed’s Coolidge Corner Cinema, weaned me as a BC student, off Ballantine Ale and onto Cler Blanc.
TS: Myron Norman was one of the greats. He was one of the most interesting people in the business. He inspired a lot of us, as did people like Leo Sulkin (Branded Wines), Richie Hogue (Charles Gilman), Bert Miller (Brookline Liquor Mart). They have all left their mark.
So, if people are still referencing him, years and years after the close of his store, you can imagine the crowd at these gatherings. I wasn’t often invited to these parties, mind you, because I was just a small kiddo but I remember all the planning and preparations. Wine glasses would need to be washed, the “good” silver would be taken out, seating charts were drawn…. It was lots of work!
Now that I’m a (haha) grown-up, I am in awe of all my grandmother could do. It’s an amazing amount of work to put something like that together and I don’t remember her ever seeming to be frazzled or overwhelmed. I’m not sure how she did it. I mean, I remember the prep work but I don’t remember seeing her make lists or plan things out or organize herself. I’m sure she did but to me it just seemed effortless. Easy. Fun.
Me? I’m a list person. The number of lists I have going at any one time is really silly. I have stickies on the desktop of my computer, I have scraps of paper in my bag and I have more than a few spreadsheets going at once. I have lists of testing cases, lists of things to do, lists of things to fix, lists of things to buy…. Well, you get the idea. But it’s how I can organize myself. It’s how I can manage big dinner parties. Or you know, holidays.
I’m often asked how I can cook for so many people. For instance on Monday, for Passover? I think we’re at about 20 people with about 10 who haven’t replied. I’m not worried since people drop in and out up until the last minute anyway. But how do I organize? Well, a list of course. Made on a spreadsheet. Naturally. I have a shopping list and then what needs to happen on what day. I feel like this is what my grandmother was able to do so effortlessly in her head. Me? I need a visual.
So, the menu for Monday? Actually, I’m making another dinner and a lunch before Monday- a Middle Eastern-Themed dinner for some friends on Saturday night and a lunch for a cousin on Sunday. Truth be told, Sunday is likely to involve a lot of leftovers with maybe a new dessert. Anyway, the menu for Passover:
Matzo Ball Soup
Hard boiled eggs (Grandma always made these, maybe to symbolize spring?)
Potentially brisket or another meat. Not sure yet.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes (these are a staple, as you know)
Chocolate Carmel Matzo
Plus the traditional charoset for the passover plate/”service”.
And I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something… I always do.
SO. Here we go. Play along at home- I’ll try to post each night with the progress I’ve made. This is the one meal it takes me days to make. So worth it!