I'm not panicking just yet. But I do already feel the pressure. And something tells me I'd better plan this one carefully and not let my perfectionism (nor my show-offishness) get the upper hand.
Here's the thing. The Firm has entered into a partnership with EORTC, the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer. In the next 5 years, we are to raise 5 million (GBP I think, not Euros) for cancer research and treatment. And I do mean WE as all employees are engaged and are expected to make their own contribution. Which is what I really like about this initiative. The feeling that you can actually make a difference - as an individual, and as part of a world-wide team.
And this is of course a cause that touches us all. Every one of us has been affected by cancer one way or another. Whether we've had to stand by and maybe even lose relatives or friends suffering from a form of cancer, or have had to battle it ourselves, the disease will sadly have been a factor in all our lives.
Last Friday we had a kick-off event at all locations with a charity auction. When this was first announced I had NO inspiration whatsoever. I wanted to be an active participant and not just bid on items others brought in, but things have been so ridiculously busy the past couple of weeks I just couldn't find the energy to come up with a brilliant idea. Basically I just wanted to go into early hibernation. That feeling still hasn't quite left me by the way. As much as I love autumn and its pretty colours, there is something to be said for having a nice loooong sleep and waking up tiny come spring. But I digress. Again.
At the very last moment I had a brainwave of something I could do - that something meaning I wouldn't have to show up at the auction having already produced something. Drumroll: I'm going to cook an authentic Indonesian meal at my home for a group of people. What do you mean you're not impressed??
Now I may only be 'a quarter Indonesian' (something you wouldn't be able to tell just by looking at me) but I still pride myself in being able to prepare a pretty darn good Indonesian meal. An authentic one - not catered to what some people think is the average European taste. Which in my opinion results in mostly meh but sometimes even very bleh food.
But that's the catch right there. I can already feel my perfectionism kicking in. I want to prepare the most fantastic authentic Indonesian dinner ever. Obviously I want to be a good host and make sure everyone enjoys their meal (that should be the main reason really). Another factor is that I'm pretty sure some of my guests will only have had the 'Dutchified' version of dishes and I want them to have a taste of the real thing. And then there's this part of me that feels the ridiculous need to impress. Stun them with my culinary skills as the Dutch-Indonesian Nigella (I've got the curves too).
Which is exactly where I've gone wrong in the past. Mostly, when I throw a dinner it's a relaxed event for both guests and host, with me whipping up something lovely (if I say so myself) without getting stressed or worked up. And if I feel the need to experiment then I always make sure I can go over to plan B without too much of an effort - while at the same time succeeding in making everyone believe the end result is what I planned to serve all along. Some of my signature dishes actually stem from fantastic failures. But: there have also been occasions where I let my enthusiasm run away with me completely - and it's mostly when cooking Indonesian food.
There are so many dishes to choose from. And they're all so lovely. And I want to really cook a variety of dishes to create a balance of flavours on the table. Which resulted in my last Indonesian dinner (for guests that is) consisting of 21 dishes. Yup, 21. It was supposed to have been 26 but the last 5 never made it to the table. By the time my guests arrived the kitchen looked like a warzone and I was a nervous wreck with a shiny face, limp hair and a wild look in my eyes. And I thought I had planned it all to perfection because I had cooked half of the dishes in the days before. Duh.
Of course, everyone loved the food and I managed to actually relax and enjoy myself after downing a glass of wine (or two). But I did swear I would never ever put myself through that again. Because no one had even asked me or expected me to play Wonder Woman Master Chef. So when I was re-reading one of my Nigella cook books a while back I could so relate to the anecdote she told of a friend who served her and some other friends the most fantastic array of dishes - all the while being close to tears because of the stress and the pressure she was under to perform. To which Nigella commented in her book that everyone would so have preferred a less extravagant meal and a happy hostess.
So you would guess that I learned my lesson. And I have. In a way. It's just that I've made a list of absolute must-have dishes. The dishes I think the dinner absolutely can't do without. And the list is still not complete. And I'm at 16 already.