disappearing food
December 24, 2008

I think there must be a correlation between the length of time a meal takes to plan and prepare and the speed at which it is consumed—as in, the longer, the quicker.

I start planning our Christmas meals over my flight delays at Thanksgiving. And when I say planned I mean I make a chart with ingredients, shopping list and prep times, in theory to shorten the actual meal-time prep, though I'm not sure that ever really works. On Sunday before Christmas I make a crème anglaise, toast granola, bake lemon-yogurt cake and chocolate chip cookies—and peel and cut five potatoes in pommes frites and fill three quart containers with water to hold for Christmas Eve supper of moules frites.

The night before Christmas Eve I try to dissuade Mom and Bryan from ordering fries at Stone Park Cafe. I'm afraid they'll ruin their appetites for potato, and I'm not in a position to shift my menu. They assure me this will not be the case.

I've pictured Christmas Eve supper at a big, casual table laden with abundant piles of mussels in delicious broth with hot bread to sop it up, a never-ending salad and parchment-wrapped pommes frites that remain crisp over an entire meal. Of course, what I get is four pounds of mussels that don't fit in any of my pans, too many things to chop and not enough counter space, bread with the bottom burned, and oil splattering a thing layer of film over half the apartment.

Mom solves part of the problem by setting up a snack table to get all that extra food off the counter. We end up reheating the mussels in a serving platter in the oven rather than trying to toss them with sauce in batches on the stove. And I stick with my potatoes, frying them in small batches in a combination of peanut oil and duck fat.

The problem is, those frites are disappearing just as fast as I can fry them. The mussels aren't warm, the salad isn't assembled, the table isn't set, and we've just consumed one-third of our side dish. "Stop eating our dinner!" I plead, stuffing three fries in my mouth at once. "Stop!"

It's impossible.

We do manage to sit down to the rest of the meal before we've completely obliterated the frites. And I do have big platters of food that seem abundant long after we're stuffed (but still eating unburned bits of bread). It's almost perfect, but I feel way more exhausted then my carefully laid plans indicated I would. It's something of a hamster wheel, this cooking business—everything consumed just as fast as you make it. Is there ever a point at which you can stop? "I am well-fed. The next meal has been prepared. Now I shall rest."