You know when you go to someone’s house for dinner and they seem to have it all together? One of the hosts is mixing you a drink and asking your children about camp while the other is sipping a glass of Prosecco, tossing some sort of delicious summery salad, listening intently to what you are saying, and showing no outward sign of doing what I often feel myself doing — which is pretend to listen intently to what you are saying while mostly worrying about the fact that — s#@t! — I forgot to make the g@#$*%n salad dressing! I should probably not admit this in a public space that is accessible by public…people, but I very much aspire to be the confident, nonchalant host who, when cooking for a large group of guests, can wing it without stressing. I’ve been aspiring for about fifteen years now.
But in those fifteen years, I’ve discovered something about myself. I am not a wing-it kind of person. I like to have a plan. This diagnosis probably gets to the root of my dinner diary pathology and my contract-drafting habit. And it is probably the reason why, if I’m having people over for dinner, 99% of what can be done ahead of time — including filled sippy cups for the pint-size guests — is done ahead of time.
But speaking of pathology, let me just also note that I think there’s something weird and non-inclusive about walking into someone’s house for dinner when everything ready to go, right down to the cheese platter in the empty living room and the saran wrapped slaws that have been losing their crunch for the past two hours, all in the name of advance planning. And that’s why, when I’m having a lot of people over, I always make sure to leave myself one no-stress task that I can pull together while the guests are hanging with me in the kitchen — like guacamole or Andy’s clams. It makes the guests feel included for one, but more important, it might even give the impression that I am the confident, nonchalant host who is making it up as she goes along. Oh this? No, I don’t really have a recipe. I just throw it together and hope for the best.
The key to the Casual Guacamole Move is to have all the ingredients prepped and chopped and sitting on the chopping board ready to be mashed.
Before the Guests Arrive: Roughly chop a small handful of tomatoes (grape tomatoes are fine), about a tablespoon of cilantro, and 2 teaspoons very finely minced red onion. (Or just look at the photo to get a sense of measurements.) Halve one lime. Get two avocados ready, but don’t slice them.
When the Guests Arrive: Pour yourself a glass of Prosecco! Ask your guests’ daughter about camp! Add your tomato-onion-cilantro mix to a small bowl. (Be sure to look up and show genuine interest in her capture the flag story.) Halve your avocados, scooping the flesh into the bowl with the tomato-onion-cilantro mix. Squeeze in a little lime juice, add a lot of salt, and mash with a fork or one of the beater attachments from a mixer. Be sure not to over-mash. You want it to be chunky.
Serve with chips.