This story is part of the Healthyish Guide to Your 30s, our best advice for how to cook, shop, date, and generally survive your best (or maybe worst?) decade yet.
So: You’re in your 30s. And you’re going to have a dinner party.
You know what, scratch that: You are, to quote Alison Roman, the Martha of our time, Having people over. “Dinner party” has such a try-hard ring to it, smacks of dinner plates and salad plates and separate glasses for water and wine (you’re doing those dishes, remember?). You’re not a 20-something playing House. You’re not “adulting”; you’re a goddamn Adult. And inviting people over to your place for food and drink and good-time having doesn’t have to be a thing.
You’re going to plan a menu. As in, decide what you’re going to serve in advance. What you’re not going to do is put together a multi-course Menu with a capital M assembled from four different of-the-moment cookbooks full of recipes you’ve been dying to try ever since so-and-so posted photos of them on Instagram. You’re not going to scramble to eight different stores to get a bunch of ingredients that you’re probably never going to use again, or realize only while you’re checking out at the butcher shop that that quantity of ribeye is going to cost as much as your monthly Metrocard. Those days are over. Because the whole you-in-the-kitchen-all-day-and-all-night-don’t-serve-dinner-until-eleven-p.m. thing ain’t your speed anymore. And literally none of your friends are even going to notice how much work and expense went into the damn thing.
No, you’re going to make something simple, but beautiful. As in, easy to love with but not a pain in the ass to make. And you’re not going to generate any more dishes than you want to wash. And you’re going to be able to have it all ready before your guests arrive. Oh, and it’s going to be vegan and mostly gluten-free, because if someone put a gun to your head and asked you to correctly identify ten of your friends’ dietary restrictions at any given moment—let alone their plus-ones—you’d be a goner.
You’re going to make them beans. And they’re going to like it.
Seriously though! They’re going to like—no, love—those beans because, at this point in your cooking life, you know that patience and care and more salt than 22-year-old you would ever think to use are all you need to turn humble (read: cheap) ingredients into delicious, nourishing, soul-satisfying meals. You’re not looking for fireworks; it’s the fireflies you’re after.
Inviting people over to your place for food and drink and good-time having doesn’t have to be a thing.
Right, so: You’re having people over on Saturday. On Friday, you hit the farmers’ market on the way in to work, because waking up an hour earlier than usual doesn’t feel like such a Herculean feat anymore, and you know that the Saturday market is for tourists. You snag the good-good before it’s completely picked-over and sun wilted. Asparagus. Radishes. Celery. Bunches of mint and parsley. You spring for the eight dollar bag of local heirloom beans because, hey, it beats spending a hundred dollars on beef. You pick up a few loose ends from the grocery store, and stash it all in the lunch fridge when you get the work; let them get mad.
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