“I’m tired of entertaining. It’s stressful and I just don’t feel like doing it anymore.” Whew! Sounds like the line from Peter Finch in that old movie Network. My friend Deb actually spoke these words for all to hear when we were out to dinner at a restaurant the other night. What a treat to hear someone actually say it out loud. We all exhaled a giant collective sigh of relief and launched into a great discussion about how the times they are a’ changin’.
Hearing that comment from Deb was somehow liberating. She’s the gal who was going to join another friend Terry on a trip to Tuscany in 2020 for a week of hands-on learning more about Italian cooking. They were so excited about the opportunity to visit local markets with the chef/instructor to pick out fresh ingredients to take back and prepare. COVID squashed their plans and I guess Deb has had a change of heart since then.
Spending a week of my vacation shopping for food and then cooking it would be my absolute worst nightmare. I’d be so much happier browsing the shops of Via Condotti, Oxford Street, or The Champs Elysée pretending I could actually afford to shop there, and letting someone else do the cooking in a nice restaurant.
Boomers have been preparing and serving meals for our families and loved ones for more than half a century now. We have paid our dues and have nothing more to prove. Even those among us who love to cook and entertain are finding we’re less inclined to extend invitations these days and are looking for alternatives. Two years of COVID has rendered us apathetic and a teeny bit selfish. The thing is, we love spending time with friends and family over a wonderful meal; we just do not want to be burdened with all the work anymore. We would much prefer the younger generations take over hosting the family dinners, or join friends in a restaurant and split the bill.
I once made the mistake of hosting a get-together of “heavy hors d’oeuvres”, thinking that it would be easier than a full sit-down meal. I spent the day before the event shopping for all the ingredients, the day of the event standing at the kitchen counter cutting, chopping, compiling, and arranging all the ingredients into artistic displays, and the day after the event cleaning up. I’ll never do that again! A proper sit-down meal of roast chicken would have been so much less work.
Over the years boomers have done it all in terms of entertaining. When we were new brides, we couldn’t wait to impress everyone with our culinary skills. We carefully rolled cooked cabbage around spicy pork mixtures and spooned homemade tomato sauce over them. I remember asking a Polish friend what to serve with cabbage rolls, besides sour cream. “Roast chicken and potatoes,” she said, doubling my workload but it had to be done right. Ha! Not anymore. For labour-intensive items like lasagne and cabbage rolls, I now buy ready-made at the grocery store or deli, and you might get a boiled potato and bread on the side if I’m feeling ambitious.
We mastered roasting prime rib to rare juiciness with crispy roasted potatoes and fresh veggies. We fiddled with delicate rolls of cannelloni in an effort to prevent everything from spilling out before serving. We lit Spanish coffees and crème brulée on fire and we tried our hands at delicate mousse and fancy cakes. We sprinkled rose petals on the table with place settings and candles that would make Martha Stewart proud. Then, we cancelled our subscriptions to Martha Stewart Living.
If it were up to my husband we would have company for dinner every night of the week. We both love getting together with friends or family for dinner and he’s a great help when we do entertain, so I can’t fault him. He also loves doing his own grocery shopping and is always up for extending last-minute invites. He cleans up on the go which reduces the mess afterward and always pitches in. But, even that doesn’t induce me to invite people to dinner these days. Is it because he hasn’t spent the last fifty years preparing meals that he’s so eager to do it now? He’s not burned out like the rest of us?
I watched my mother reach the point in the years before she passed away when she dreaded going into the kitchen to prepare yet another meal. I totally get it. Can we blame two years of COVID for our apathy? That two years of idleness aged us ten years and perhaps it is partially responsible for our lack of interest in entertaining. We’re also finding the increased noise levels, the high energy required, and the health risks of get-togethers harder to tolerate.
We may never recover from the effects of the last two years but it is important to develop and maintain social ties. I can do that without cooking, though. When the day comes that I have to move into assisted living, you will never hear me complain about the food. To have someone else plan the menu, do the shopping and preparation, and place it in front of me without having to do the dishes and clean up afterward is my idea of heaven on earth.
That’s not to say I will never entertain again. Mais, non, mes amis! But when I do I’ll be totally into it. Terry is still making her own sourdough bread from a homemade starter and while we respect her dedication, I have no intention of joining in her fun. And, I have a feeling Deb and I are not alone in stepping back from kitchen chores. What about you?