I had made up my mind many weeks ago to finally get down to hosting a dinner party. Then the news my husband's hours had been cut at work. It didn't take long to quickly feel the pinch of the "mini" paycheck. My first thought was to panic and postpone our gathering until we knew if he would have a job at all. I am glad that despite the downturn, we decided to make the best of it and create a different kind of fun. Fear monger I will not be! My parents have always spoke of their "meager" beginnings as a young, one income, teacher's salary couple, in a tiny town not far from Great Falls, Montana. I had always thought it was ironic how those years, mom said, were the years that they had the most fun. "People created their own good times", my mother would say. "No one had money, we were all in the same boat together". It is those conversations that we should really pay attention to when our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles (you get the idea?) talk about the lean times.
I picked my chin off the floor and thought of a way to not make an economical dinner into a cheap & pathetic evening. I decided to embrace the fact we are all experiencing the effects of this recession. I remembered a restaurant in Seattle from when I was in high school. It was called "The Breadline". It was where my parents took me for my 17th birthday and it has forever stuck with me. It was fashioned entirely in the depression era. Blackboards instead of menus. Simple, tasty home cooking, and you drank from jars. So, with idea in check, I started recreating that depression era scenario.
I first scoured the internet for old 'depression era' photos and utilized those for my invites. I emailed them and even posted one on my facebook wall. Once I got the ball rolling, I thought long and hard as to what foods make us feel good when we need cheering up.
This was my meal strategy:
Cabbage Patch Soup
Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts
Buttermilk Biscuits (store bought) or Marilyn O'Reilly's Irish Soda Bread with canned preserves
Apple Bread Pudding with a Cider Hard Sauce
I purchased those lovely, mason jar style glasses to drink our 'beverage of choice' (our local dollar store had scads of them). Tablecloths were the financial section (see photo of Bernie Madoff on table?) of our local newspaper, with clear plastic tarps over the top. I snagged the incredibly appropriate candles labeled - "job", & "good-luck", in our local grocery store in the Hispanic foods isle. You could use a mixture of tableware, and plates. The more patterns used, the more appropriate.
The evenings dress-code was come as you are - sweats, p.j.'s, denim, or even your bathrobe for those unemployed, such as myself. Our friends Nicole & Rich brought their wine in brown paper bags, and Rich was the best dressed, sporting his "Guinness" pajama bottoms. I even threw in a little "John Phillips Sousa" music from my i pod. Whatever your idea, the plan is to make fun no matter what life throws at you. I think we accomplished that. It will be an evening, like that restaurant in Seattle when I was 17, I will never forget. As Ben Steins says, "Let's Roll".