In honor of my man becoming an old man (30! You heard it here last.), I threw a birthday dinner party for a group of friends from his residency program. With their crazy schedules and proximity to hospital cafeterias, these guys eat too many meals that are at best forgettable and, too often, not unlike the slop sadly served to patients. When George said he wanted to do a burger BBQ for the dinner, I decided to really blow out the theme and make everything from scratch. I would give them the opposite of the processed, questionable fare to which they’ve become unwillingly accustomed.
Fortunately, my DIY fiendishness gave me a leg up in the preparations. I already had an arsenal of three types of homemade mustard and a couple jars of both fermented and vinegar-pickled carrots and cucumbers crowding the refrigerator door. A glut of dry-farmed CSA tomatoes made DIY ketchup an obvious choice. I’d reserved a couple eggs from the weekly dozen for aïoli since, even though I love mayo made with raw egg yolks, I’m really picky about the eggs’ quality when serving that mayo to others.
Had I been a true DIY-er, I would’ve started months ahead of time and made cheddar cheese. Instead, I bought pungent clothbound cheddar from Vermont and overcompensated by making light brioche burger buns from scratch. Although mine were misshapen, homemade buns are orders of magnitude tastier and more interesting than even very good store-bought versions.
To round out the meal, I made our favorite potato salad, a big green salad with shaved vegetables and vegan Caesar dressing, and a triple-berry spelt crust pie with soft pillows of unsweetened whipped cream. To start, we munched on some one-bite watermelon wonders and tortilla chips and the best salsa, ever.
One of George’s friends took his shirt off in the middle of dinner, which I assume means he was enjoying the meal so much he couldn’t contain himself in his clothing. Or that the temperature in our house was approaching the temperature inside our oven. One or the other. The next morning, I ate leftover potato salad while the birthday boy ate a substantial wedge of ‘breakfast pie’. Some things never change, even when you get old.