It’s interesting that, the older I get, the more I have come to appreciate the ministry of hospitality.
I’ve always been a Mary to someone’s Martha; much more interested in talk and thought than in the logistics of entertaining. And I grew up in a household with socially anxious parents who really didn’t care to have guests over very often; one of my more unfortunate memories is of my high school graduation party, when my mother, unnerved by the thought of her in-laws descending upon our house, spent most of the day being sick in the bathroom. So I’ve had to spend the past two or so decades unlearning that awful twisty feeling in my insides at the thought of opening my household to others or organizing a group outing.
In the last year Fellow Traveler and I have tried to organize get-togethers, either at her house or at some midway point in the state, because we think it’s a good thing, and because the people who show up really seem to appreciate it. And we’ve been beneficiaries of similar hospitality by others, and appreciate that; being able to be ourselves and relax in good company.
All of which is the scenic-drive way of getting to my tale of Easter dinner, which this year consisted of Fellow Traveler, her empty-nest sister and myself. After considering our thematic possibilities, including the $40 premade giganto-mart spiral ham dinner special, we decided to do something completely different, because we could: roast leg of lamb. And because my own fussily equivocal enjoyment of lamb makes me lean toward seasoning it Mediterranean style – lots of garlic and herbs -- my suggestion was to serve it with Greek/Middle Eastern side dishes. This plan violated one of my mother’s major culinary rules, namely, don’t experiment with untried recipes on guests. (When FT asked me the last time I made a whole leg of lamb, I said, “Never.” She responded, “Oh…okay…” in the sort of tentative way you might respond to a friend informing you, as she whipped around a banked section of unfamiliar urban multilane, that she’d never actually driven on a freeway before. I didn’t tell FT that, except for tabbouli, I’d never made any of the proposed side dishes either.) But sometimes you have to set your sights toward the unknown, even if it’s just down the hall in the kitchen.
So yesterday, after church, I cooked. The lamb, pre-rubbed with lemon, olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and studded with garlic slivers and rosemary sprigs from my little overwintering rosemary shrub, was placed in a 450 degree oven, then the temperature immediately turned down to 325 degrees. I then prepared roasted baby red potatoes Greek style – peeled mid-tater, rolled in kosher salt, pepper and oregano, then placed in a pan with olive oil, lemon juice, a bit of chicken broth, Greek oregano and peeled garlic cloves and cooked uncovered next to the meat (the potatoes absorb much of the oil and liquid, and get nice and roasty on the outside, soft on the inside). I made a simple beet salad with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, onion and garlic. And, just before dinner, I steamed a big batch of spinach, mixed it with green onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil and added fresh dillweed and feta cheese – sort of like spanakopita innards without the phyllo dough around them. And then there was the homemade tabbouli, made the evening before, and some mixed marinated olives.
The experiment worked very well. We ate lots – lots – supplemented by some very nice bakery rolls (great for sopping up the residual Greek potato marinade) and an Amish raspberry pie. Greek-Amish fusion; whoddathunkit.
Of course, I suspect this means that I have now inherited the responsibility for future Easter dinners. I wonder what world cuisine will show up on the table next year.