Within a few minutes of looking around you’d find no fewer than six calendars in the small confines of my office. Two are up on adjacent walls, one for a quick glance, the other for marking dates and deadlines. Then there is my Outlook calendar, a necessary and often-referenced function of my every day. Add to that my phone calendar (for on-the-go reference, of course), year-long project plans, and work plans and timelines. Oh, and my new-found tool for listing to-do’s by the day. The means by which I can track time past, time approaching, and the associated tasks is extensive. Perhaps too extensive.
Before you start to question my mental stability, however, I’ll let you in on a [not-so-secret] secret: I’m a planner. A big one. An occupational one. A dig-my-head-and-all-ten-fingers-deep-into-every-little-last-detail one. And, if I were to show you the planning documents (yes, plural) that I write for a dinner party, let alone a multi-day event, forget any questions about stability; you’ll be utterly convinced I’ve lost my mind. Or signed it over to the Martha Stewart Omnimedia folks for programming.
You can imagine, then, the sigh of relief my list-addled brain gives when there is no plan. Ok, well. Let’s say less of a plan. We had a weekend. We had a gathering of people. We had a purpose. And, yes, I had a few recipes printed out and stuffed into my bag. But those lost all purpose following a survey of the crowd and a trip to the store. A hastily compiled grocery list, a change of mind mid-shopping trip, a childhood favorite besting out a pre-pinned recipe. I plucked up bunches of flowers and crowded them into my arms without any sense of what they were destined for (a concern the shop owners must have felt as well, given the way their eyes were tracking my path back and forth between the buckets). We hunted up candles to fill the lanterns before dusk set in. And, bless them, when the guys decided that a fire pit was a necessary accessory for the evening they dispersed to various nooks and crannies to find the pieces to craft one. We lit the match just as the afternoon breeze gave way to the evening chill.
True, the final touches for the evening came together just as everyone was taking their seats, but that didn’t dampen the festive air. We had a celebration in mind. One that called for champagne coupes, bottles of bubbly, and rich chocolate desserts. But slave over the stove we did not. We traded hours in the kitchen for some group effort, turns at the grill, and a bit of digging around in the china cabinet. Dinner on the table, Cole Porter in the background, and a healthy fire – however makeshift – casting light across the table; toss in some good conversation and a bit of luck and the celebration was ready made. I don’t think I could have planned it better myself.
For those moments when you want the fancy, but not the fuss: mousse au chocolat. Done the Craig Claiborne way you need four ingredients, fifteen minutes to blend, and an hour to chill. That leaves plenty of time for celebration.
Chocolate Mousse (via the New York Times Cook Book, 1961 ed.) – serves 6 to 8
- 1 cup (6 oz) semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 5 tablespoons boiling water
- 4 eggs, separated
- 2 tablespoons dark, good quality rum
1. Put chocolate into blender and blend on high speed for six seconds.
2. With the blender turned off, push down the chocolate from the sides. Add the boiling water and blend on high for 10 seconds. Add the egg yolks and rum and blend for three seconds, or until smooth.
3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, using a handheld mixer (or whisk if you have serious arm power), stiffly beat egg whites. They should form peaks when you lift up the mixer.
4. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites, carefully folding until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mousse into individual serving dishes and chill for one hour before serving.