Let’s Do Lunch

When host­ing din­ner seems too com­pli­cated, and brunch isn’t quite what you had in mind, go old-school with a clas­sic Sun­day roast

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When host­ing din­ner seems too com­pli­cated, go old-school with a roast

BY THE TIME I was a teenager,” writes the Cana­dian cook­book au­thor Laura Calder in her new book, The Invit­ing Life: An In­spi­ra­tional Guide to Homemak­ing, Host­ing and Open­ing the Door to Hap­pi­ness, “I’d grown into a proper lit­tle tyrant when it came to ta­ble set­tings and eti­quette (I’d dis­cov­ered Emily Post and Amy Van­der­bilt, to the de­spair of my two brothers).” But it was that eti­quette and the fam­ily dy­namic that in­formed the Food Net­work Canada host’s culi­nary-driven ca­reer and her love of host­ing at home. “I was aware even then that there was power in feed­ing peo­ple, that on the oc­ca­sions I took over from my mother to cook for fun, I was some­how help­ing to keep our house­hold to­gether and make ev­ery­one happy. That gave me purpose and sat­is­fac­tion.” Here, her thoughts on be­ing a host with the most.

Vi­vian Vas­sos: “Homemak­ing” is a word we haven’t heard in a while! Is nos­tal­gia key to host­ing now?

Laura Calder: If there’s any­thing that never goes out of style, it’s host­ing and homemak­ing. With­out those foun­da­tions, civ­i­liza­tion quickly starts to un­ravel as, un­for­tu­nately, I think we’ve seen over the past decade. That’s prob­a­bly why the pen­du­lum is start­ing to swing the other way. Peo­ple are fi­nally sens­ing that th­ese pur­suits are not friv­o­lous, they’re vi­tal. I wrote this book to un­der­line their im­por­tance – to high­light why they mat­ter so much.

VV: Is there a dif­fer­ence be­tween en- ter­tain­ing and host­ing?

LC: In a way, they’re the same, but there is a nuance of dif­fer­ence. I find the word “en­ter­tain­ing” prob­lem­atic be­cause it sounds like some sort of top hat rou­tine, mere di­ver­sion. “Host­ing,” on the other hand, is more gra­cious-sound­ing and sug­gests tak­ing charge of some­thing that has mean­ing and con­se­quences, hope­fully good ones. Host­ing is a true lead­er­ship role.

VV: Do good cooks au­to­mat­i­cally make good hosts? Do cook­book au­thors make good en­ter­tain­ers?

LC: Good host­ing isn’t re­ally about the food, so even if you’re the best cook, if you don’t know how to make peo­ple feel good, you’re un­likely to ex­cel at host­ing. As for au­thors, a lot of great writ­ers tend to be quite in­tro­verted, so host­ing can make them un­com­fort­able. And there are dif­fer­ent types of hosts. Some peo­ple are fab­u­lous at big bashes. I’m not; I like smaller gath­er­ings. There again, though, it’s the di­ver­sity that keeps things in­ter­est­ing.

VV: But we can just get Uber Eats. Why bother cook­ing? Is this where the hap­pi­ness fac­tor comes in?

LC: There is some­thing about be­ing cooked for by some­one that is im­me­di­ately a deeper ex­pe­ri­ence than just shar­ing take­out. It’s more in­ti­mate and more bond­ing be­cause there’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity in­volved, both on the part of the host and the guests. It’s cer­tainly more powerful when it comes to re­la­tion­ship-build­ing than meet­ing in a restau­rant. There’s no com­par­i­son. As for hap­pi­ness, I think that comes from true con­nec­tion, and you get that much faster be­tween peo­ple when you’re not be­ing fed on neu­tral turf by a mid­dle­man.

In that spirit, take th­ese tips, recipes and a few pages out of Calder’s book, ex­cerpted here, and throw your own mid-day fete. LUNCH

If din­ner feels too much like jump­ing in at the deep end, a great way to wade into en­ter­tain­ing at home is to in­vite peo­ple for lunch. The food can be sim­pler and lighter, there tends to be less of it and there’s no need to of­fer a full-blown dessert (which, even for a proper din­ner, can al­ways be re­placed by a bit of fruit and cheese, a plate of cook­ies or a smat­ter­ing of choco­lates, can­died gin­ger, licorice and the like).

Noon­time en­ter­tain­ing is ideal for guests with chil­dren, as well as for old peo­ple (ahem, like me) who don’t want a late night out. It’s also a use­ful time for get­ting to­gether with one or two friends or col­leagues for a pri­vate, clear-headed chat. (I know brunch is pop­u­lar th­ese days too, but I per­son­ally keep my dis­tance

be­cause I find the food weird – one friend typ­i­fies brunch as “the pork chop waf­fle par-fait” – and be­cause eat­ing at nei­ther-here-nor-there hours of the day throws my body out of whack. Chez nous, there­fore, mid-day eat­ing means lunch proper.)

Lunch can be ex­actly the same as what we’d serve in the evening, al­beit in smaller por­tions, but I think un­less it’s meant to be the main meal of the day, it’s nice if it has its own flair and unique stamp.

THE SUN­DAY ROAST

There is one so-called lunch that is not so easy – the in­fa­mous Sun­day roast – but it’s def­i­nitely worth mas­ter­ing be­cause it’s ba­si­cally smaller-scale prac­tice for all the grand-scale fam­ily cel­e­bra­tions that come dot­ted through­out the year to ter­rify us all. I was in­spired to res­ur­rect the tra­di­tion in our house af­ter I’d spent a small for­tune on a big white li­nen table­cloth. (Where more ap­pro­pri­ate to use it than at Sun­day roast?) The stroke of ge­nius with our Sun­day lunches is that we roped a par­tic­u­lar group of friends into the game and turned our­selves into some­what of a club. Sun­day roast hap­pens roughly once a month (sum­mer months ex­cluded), and we ro­tate houses, which light­ens the work­load for ev­ery­one and spreads ex­penses out evenly (meat isn’t – and shouldn’t be – cheap).

A Sun­day roast is es­sen­tially the dreary old meat/starch/two veg for­mula of din­ing, only at its most glo­ri­ous. Christ­mas din­ner is a Sun­day roast, with a few spe­cial fix­ings; Easter lunch is a Sun­day roast; Thanks­giv­ing is a Sun­day roast. Be­cause th­ese feasts are so sub­stan­tial, no first course is re­quired; the main spread just goes on plat­ters on a buf­fet or straight on the ta­ble where chaos en­sues as peo­ple pass dishes around and around and around in cir­cles like so many minds gone mad. This is how such fam­ily-style cel­e­bra­tions should be: to­tal chaos, with shout­ing chil­dren, bark­ing dogs, wine glasses knocked fly­ing in the heat of a good tale ... There is no rea­son not to stray from the tra­di­tional menus (I do it all the time), but it’s also worth be­ing fa­mil­iar with the tried-and-true be­cause they’re com­fort­ing and fa­mil­iar, al­ways ap­pro­pri­ate and never go out of style.

HOST’S FIRST ROAST

Makes 6 serv­ings If you’re new to Sun­day roast, take the easy route and serve cold roast beef with an ar­ray of en­tic­ing sauces: grainy Di­jon mus­tard and horse­rad­ish cream, both of which you can buy, along with wal­nut may­on­naise and green sauce, both of which you can make in a wink.

3 lb sir­loin roast Salt and pep­per Olive oil

Heat the oven to 425 F. Sea­son the roast and rub it lightly with oil all over. On the stove­top, heat an oven-friendly skil­let that will ac­com­mo­date the roast and brown the meat on all sides un­til you get a nice dark crust, about three min­utes per side. Trans­fer to the oven and roast un­til a meat ther­mome­ter reaches 120 F, about 40 min­utes. (If the meat is not quite to tem­per­a­ture, re­turn it to the oven, but check ev­ery few min­utes be­cause things can go over­board very fast from this point on.)

When it’s ready, re­move the roast from the oven and set aside to rest for at least 15 min­utes. If you’re mak­ing the roast early in the day, wrap and re­frig­er­ate once cool, then re­move from the fridge an hour be­fore slic­ing ul­tra­thinly and ar­rang­ing on a plat­ter. Serve with the four sauces, each in its own bowl.

Wal­nut May­on­naise

De­pend­ing on the strength of your wal­nut oil, you may want to use half wal­nut and half grape­seed oil.

1 egg yolk 1 tsp Di­jon mus­tard 1 tsp sherry vine­gar ½ tsp salt 1 cup wal­nut oil Lemon juice to taste

Whisk to­gether the yolk, mus­tard, vine­gar and salt. Whisk in the oil, adding it only drop by drop so the mix­ture emul­si­fies. Taste and add lemon juice and more salt, if needed, to taste. Re­frig­er­ate un­til serv­ing. Makes about 1 cup

Green Sauce

1 cup pars­ley leaves ½ cup mint leaves ½ cup basil leaves 2 an­chovies, rinsed (op­tional) 1 heap­ing tsp ca­pers 1 heap­ing tsp Di­jon mus­tard 1 gar­lic clove, grated ⅓ cup olive oil, more if needed Salt and pep­per Lemon juice

Put the herbs, an­chovies (if us­ing), ca­pers, mus­tard and gar­lic in a food pro­ces­sor and pulse fine. With the mo­tor run­ning, add the oil in a stream to sauce con­sis­tency, thin­ning with more oil if nec­es­sary. Taste and sea­son to your lik­ing with the salt. Makes about 1 cup

Ex­cerpted from The Invit­ing Life by Laura Calder. Copy­right © 2017 Laura Calder. Pub­lished by Ap­petite by Ran­dom House, a divi­sion of Pen­guin Ran­dom House Canada Lim­ited. Re­pro­duced by ar­range­ment with the Pub­lisher. All rights re­served.

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