How I Finally Resolved to Meal Plan Like Mom
Two years ago my mother turned 70, and, in a mood of giddy nostalgia, she brought out one of the journals in which she has kept a record of all the dinner parties she’s hosted since 1976. Ever my mother’s son, I have a similar journal. But I am a writer, and she is a chemist. Mine features narratives and feelings, whereas hers reads like laboratory notes—just the meal plan and the invite list. No digressions.
“Salmon mousse,” she announced, reading one entry. “My God, I must have made that 100 times. For the Kaufmans and Hurleys; do you remember them?” I did not. But I did remember her salmon mousse. Pink, jiggling, moulded in the curved shape of a fish.
“How do you plan a meal?” I asked my mother. She considered this, sipping her wine. “You start with something you want to make and you round it out with old favourites,” she said. “Same as a lab experiment: only one variable at a time.” (Here are Chef Lynn Crawford’s top five hosting tips.)
I’ve never let my mother study my dinner journal too closely; I think it would strain my heart.
How fascinating to go over the decades with her. First the adventurous period of youth: making piroshki by hand; attempting Peking duck because she saw it on Joyce Chen’s PBS show. After that, the middle-aged period of simplicity, where ham was the “old favourite.” And the recent era of rediscovered adventure: Thai food and mango salad.