I had no idea when my daughter invited six friends for a birthday party that it would mean a marathon in the kitchen for me.
I should have known. I’ve been hosting children’s birthday parties for 22 years. But for some reason this took me by surprise as, at midnight last night, I realized I’d been in the kitchen all day long. The plan had been for the girls – ages thirteen and fourteen – to make their own pizzas for dinner. We’ve done this before to great acclaim. I make the dough and prepare the toppings, and they set to. It’s messy, loud, fun, busy, then they all sit down to their own creations.
In the past, I suppose birthday parties have seemed a bit easier because the children were younger, their palates less evolved, their games more planned. For years, in this French enclave I call home, the American games of pin the tail on the donkey, push the peanut across the rug with your nose, find the paperclips in the bowl of rice, and bobbing for apples kept kids delighted, and a pizza topped with tomato sauce and cheese was enough. The era of games is over; that of finer food has arrived. Yesterday’s pizzas had tomato sauce – I make it in the summer and freeze it – and cheeses, though this time there were two instead of one. There were mushrooms sautéed in garlic, fresh pork sausage lightly cooked, thinly sliced onions. Still very simple, of course, but more involved.
As the day and evening wore on, I could see that a cooking session wasn’t in the cards – the girls were way too occupied with makeovers, nail polishing, and making videos of the processes. My daughter agreed with relief, and I made the pizzas and put them in the oven. I then realized I hadn’t finished the frosting for the birthday cupcakes, so I did that, putting it outside in the cold so it would set faster.
Back in the kitchen, the pizzas were coming along nicely. As they baked, I looked up recipes for waffles – the request for breakfast – toying with the idea of making the batter while I waited. I was about to start when the girls filed in, haunted by starvation. There was, I could see, no time to waste. I held them off with carrot sticks, got the pizzas out to cool, and whisked the frosting, which was now spreadable.
As the girls organized themselves and the table, then took the pizza out to the dining room, I had just the time to frost the cupcakes before two came back to claim them. They decorated and planted candles, then gingerly carried them back to the dining room while I followed to take photos.
Friends had joined me for dinner (we enjoyed the pizza too, with a green salad on the side). We relaxed in the kitchen while the girls continued their evening.
I got up early to make the waffles – which take forever; why cannot someone invent a quick waffle iron? – so that by the time the girls came downstairs, a pile was waiting, along with the chocolate sauce and whipped cream (from a can) that one of the girls had brought with her, for garnish. I didn’t think to take photos of the results and by the time I re-entered the dining room, the chocolate sauce and whipped cream were wisps of memory. Below is the adult version of the waffle, topped with bitter orange marmalade.
It’s now getting to be late afternoon of day two, and the girls are still here. They’ve had their lunch – leftover pizza – and they’re off on another round of makeovers and hair styling. Me? I’m contemplating dinner with friends, planned a long while ago. I’m leaning towards salad, bread, and cheese, with fresh fruit for dessert.
Enjoy the waffle recipe below! Serve à la française, with warm chocolate sauce and whipped cream, or a l’Américaine, with lightly salted butter and maple syrup!
1 to 1-1/4 cups 250-310ml) milk
4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups (170g) all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs (1 separated)
1 to 2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil, for the waffle iron, if necessary
1. Preheat the waffle iron. Preheat the oven to about 150F (65C), to keep the waffles warm.
2. Combine 1 cup milk and the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When hte butter has melted, remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm.
3. Sift 1-1/4 cups flour and the remaining dry ingredients together onto a piece of parchment paper.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs and the egg yolk until they are well mixed. Add the milk mixture, whisk, then quickly whisk in the dry ingredients. If the batter is too thick, add additional milk; if it is too thin, add additional flour.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until it holds soft peaks. Fold it into the batter.
6. When the waffle iron is heated, oil it if necessary and when the oil is hot, add about 1/2 cup batter for each waffle.
about 8 waffles