It sometimes happens that when we are writing, we get caught up in what we are creating and don’t notice the passage of time. Fortunately, DB makes sure I have a good breakfast, and this usually gets me through to around 3.30pm when the dogs start thinking it’s their dinner time. And if I haven’t planned my dinner, I get grumpy when I have to stop work and start making it. So, the key to a Stress Free NaNoWriMo Stress Free Dinner Party is having everything under control before you start writing then you won’t have to think about it later.
Technically, as a starving writer you should probably eat gruel. But having said that, many of the “classic” writers had day jobs. Like Charles Dickens (legal clerk), Fyodor Dostoyevsky (engineer) and Herman Melville (bank clerk). So perhaps just an ordinary, yet economical meal.
If you remembered in time, this is a good occasion to drag out the crock pot (slow cooker) to make a delicious savoury stew. Something that you can start cooking in the morning, leave for the day and serve when your guests arrive. You should make the time to bathe, so you can quickly steam some accompanying vegetables while you wash. At the same time, we’ll try to pick foods that stimulate creativity.
If you didn’t remember in time, have your favourite ethnic take-out restaurant deliver and serve the food in your dishes (not the takeout containers). You might like to cook some rice, so you don’t look quite so self-absorbed.
You probably won’t be writing again when people leave, so give yourself a free pass and have a couple of glasses of wine. Remember that while you are a writer, you are not an alcoholic writer (à la Dylan Thomas, James Joyce, or Edgar Allan Poe) so keep a lid on it. Make sure there is plenty of water (of course).
A lot of modern writers choose to write in busy coffee shops because the shop isn’t their workplace or their home and they can just get on with their writing undisturbed. Not that I am suggesting you eat out, but you could replicate the café vibe with a plain, undecorated table, paper napkins, and everyday crockery. You could download a coffee shop sound effect or just go with the kind of quiet, nondescript music they play.
I’ll say just neat and clean because when I’m in the thick of it, that’s the best I can do. But if you and all your guests are doing NaNoWriMo, why not dress like writers?
As usual, six guests arriving 6.30 for 7.00pm.
6:30 Apéritif: Dry Champagne with Mixed Nuts
I’ve picked champagne because you’re potentially halfway through your book (yay!) so why not celebrate? And nuts are an excellent source of protein, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids which can cheer you up, boost memory and concentration, as well as improve your overall brain function.
7.00 Entrée: Smoked Salmon and Avocado Salad with more Champagne
This dish gives you:
- A good dose of omega-3s (salmon, olive oil, and seeds).
- Oleic acid (avocados) to increase the speed your brain transfers information.
- Antioxidants lycopene, and beta-carotene (tomatoes) for healthy brain cell growth.
- Trace elements thiamine, zinc, Vitamins A and E (seeds).
You could make the dressing in the morning, but the seeds are best toasted just before serving.
Dressing: whisk together 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, one small grated clove of garlic and a little salt and pepper.
Salad: put a small handful of rocket (arugula) on each plate, top with 1 oz (30 g) smoked salmon, ¼ of a sliced avocado, and a few halved cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle toasted black and white sesame seeds over the top.
8.00 Main: Easy Moroccan Chicken and Couscous with Rioja
The benefits of this meal include memory boosting and brain protecting choline, B6 and B12 (chicken), lutein from carrots, potassium from lemon and the previously mentioned tomato and olive oil benefits.
Chicken: Add 1 teaspoon of cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and ¾ teaspoon of cinnamon to the slow cooker and mix. Add 1 ½ lbs (680 g) skinless and boneless chicken thighs and coat with the spice mixture. Add a 14 ½ oz (410 g) can of tomatoes, 1 lb (450 g) chopped carrots and 1/3 cup of black olives. Cover and cook on low for 6 – 8 hours (3 – 4 on high). When you are ready to serve, shred the chicken into the sauce.
Couscous: Put 1 ½ cups of couscous, and the grated rind and juice of a large lemon in a big bowl. Add 1 ½ cups of boiling water, cover and leave for 5 – 10 minutes to allow the couscous to absorb the liquid. Stir with a fork to fluff up, and stir in some chopped coriander (cilantro).
9.00 Dessert: Fruit Salad with Moscato (or Champagne)
Fruit is a good source of tyrosine, which increases your ability to think deeply. Berries increase dopamine production and contain antioxidants and proanthocyanidins. Together they protect the brain and keep it in top working order. Not to mention that they contain glucose that your brain (and body) use for energy. Dairy may help protect the brain from age-related decline, so add some cream, ice cream or yoghurt and maybe some crushed nuts or a little shaved dark chocolate (full of antioxidant flavonoids too) for good measure.
10.00 Digestif: Dark Chocolate, Comte Cheese, and Bourbon (tea and coffee).
Most writers have a preferred tipple, and for many of them, it’s Bourbon. Weirdly, it’s tasty with chocolate, and aged cheese so let’s go with both. Green tea contains antioxidant catechins, making it one of the healthiest things you can drink as well as good for complex thinking. You might like to add this to the menu as well.
With a meal chosen for easy preparation, the bulk of the work completed in the morning, there is very little to do as the evening progresses.
11.00 Prepare chicken.
12.00 Make the fruit salad.
6.00 Make the dressing and put the salad together.
6.25 Empty the nuts into a bowl.
6.30 Guests arrive.
7.00 Dress the salad and serve.
7.45 Prepare couscous and shred the chicken.
8.00 Serve chicken.
9.00 Serve dessert.
9.45 Put the coffee on, lay out the cheese and chocolate.
10.00 Serve digestif.