A few nights ago a friend of mine dropped in after dinner for a glass of wine and a chat. Usually when guests arrive at my house they fill their wine glasses or their teacups and head to the table on my verandah which is commonly known as the ‘the spot’. However, now that the weather has turned a little chilly the lounge has become the current entertaining space.
As my friend and I sat chatting he reached over to put his drink on the coffee table and noticed a box of coasters. The coasters were a Christmas gift, they’re the ones that look like little vinyl records, in ode to my love of music. He asked why the coasters were still in a box and suggested it might be more ‘user friendly’ to take them out. - don’t you just love a helpful friend! I hadn’t really thought about it before, but he was right. I had been keeping them in the box so they wouldn't look messy but as a result I’d never actually used them.
This lead to a conversation about keeping things for special occasions and I was reminded of the dinner parties my parent’s had when I was a child.
My brother and I always picked up on the ‘someone’s coming to dinner vibe’ as the special occasion things made an appearance. A great deal of effort was put into these evenings. The ‘good’ china came out of the cupboard, the silver cutlery got a polish and the timber furniture glistened.
Mum always cooked a chicken and slivered almond dish when people were coming over, which was followed by a sour cream cheesecake. Tantalizing cooking smells would fill the house (combined with the subtle odor of Mr Sheen). Specially selected vinyl records were taken from the old fashioned stereo cabinet, and dust was blown from their covers to get them ready for people’s easy listening pleasure. To this day a Carpenters song or something by Simon and Garfunkel can also take me back to those moments.
I would try not to get in the way while preparations were happening. Which means of course that I didn’t want to polish the silver or the the furniture. Instead I would head to the large cane swing chair on the verandah and read a book while waiting in anticipation for the evening ahead. This was a time when people wore their 'Sunday best' when going to go someone's house for dinner, and they always brought a gift for the host (and sometimes the host's children).
As a child my parent's dinner parties always seemed so exciting and mysterious. It felt like something magical was happening in those moments. And perhaps it was.
Now that I'm of an age where I sometimes have dinner parties of my own, I realise that as adults we can get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we forget to notice the magic. We can easily forget that having an opportunity to share food and conversation with the people in our lives truly is a special occasion and should be treated that way. The good china and the polished silver aren’t really necessary ingredients but the connection shared, the atmosphere, the conversation and the food – now that’s where the magic is.
My little vinyl record coasters are now out of their box and proudly scattered across the coffee table just waiting for people to pop in.
Magic Sour Cream Cheesecake:
250g packet plain sweet biscuits
150g butter, melted
250g packet cream cheese, softened
250g cottage cheese
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
½ cup(125ml) milk
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Preheat your oven to 170 (150 fan forced). Blend or process bikkies until they are the consistency of fine bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and processes until combined. Press the mixture evenly over the base and side of a 20cm springform tin. Place on an oven tray and pop in the fridge for about half an hour or until firm. While the base is cooling, beat the cheeses together until smooth and then beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the sugar and cornflour followed by the milk , cream, rind and juice. Pour the mixture into the crumb crust. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes. Let it cool in the oven with the door ajar and refrigerate overnight. Add a few raspberries on top before serving.