Monday, January 12, 2009

My 10-year-old gourmand

E, who turned 10 yesterday, is often ruled by his appetite, as I think I've mentioned once or twice before. And so, when he declared that he wanted to celebrate his birthday this year with a dinner party for a handful of his friends, I wasn't really surprised. He likes to eat, thus he assumes his friends like to eat, and what better way to celebrate a momentous occasion than - to eat?

He was very methodical. He and a friend took out one of his favorite cookbooks, Small Bites: Tapas, sushi, mezze, antipasti, and other finger foods by Jennifer Joyce, and went through it methodically. They came back to me, very excited, with a list of more than 20 - I kid you not - "small plates" they wanted to include on the menu. For 10 10-year-olds.

Now, I consider myself a good mom. And a good cook. And I was willing to indulge him in the dinner party idea. But 20 dishes? No. Too many.

We pared it down and ended up with 11, plus a birthday cake. Of the 11, three were bought rather than homemade. And I took a few shortcuts. But the upshot is that I spent two days shopping, cooking and serving an elaborate dinner for a group of fifth-graders.

And you know what? I loved every minute of it. The kids were wildly appreciative and ate everything. Tasted everything, even saffron-coconut soup with edamame-shrimp dumplings, tandoori chicken skewers, and crispy pork larb in wonton cups. Loved sitting down to a table set with china and crystal and candles and place cards and menus. Toasted my son, who beamed with satisfaction that his friends were enjoying the dining experience as much as he was.

And, as my husband pointed out, it was a lot more personal than taking a bunch of kids ice skating or to the laser tag place.

So will I do it again next year? Probably. But I'll try to factor in more time for E to help me in the kitchen. Doing it together has to be more fun than doing it alone.

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