At age 30, one receives strength.”
– Talmud, Pirkei Avot 5:26
Buenos Aires – Saturday was the big three-oh. Not for me. I barely remember mine. It was Henry’s turn (and he’s sensitive about, convinced life is nearly over, so don’t mention it…). Now anyone who’s been reading my blog for a long time will recall the travails of last year’s birthday bash. Let me just say, that Peruvian custom or not, Argentine custom or not, thirtieth birthday or not, I simply was not having another all night, pounding music party in the house. You want to have a party like that, find somewhere else to hold it. Interestingly, he’d already thought it through and decided that wasn’t the sort of celebration he wanted anyway – maybe 20 friends, a few of mine too, and an afternoon asado on the day after, Sunday. The asado turned into more of a cebichada – but we stuck with the afternoon theme – officially planning on a noon start, but knowing that most folks wouldn’t show until at least two or three in the afternoon. Amazingly, a few showed at noon. We weren’t remotely ready… for the fifty people the invitation list had grown to (of which only about thirty, thankfully, ended up coming).
Now, it was all pretty planned out. We knew the food we wanted. Henry’s sister was coming in the day before to help us prepare. Henry arranged to have someone make a wonderful birthday cake. Another friend to make tamales. He planned Saturday morning around heading out to buy all the balloons, streamers, etc., I planned it to buy the needed food for the ceviche, some papas a la huancaina and ocopa, and anticuchos. Of course, none of that came to pass. Saturday night when he called his friend to find out what time the cake was being delivered, it turned out it hadn’t been started – and he wondered if we’d mind if he delivered it on Monday or Tuesday as that would be more convenient for him. His sister didn’t show up until 9 p.m. on Saturday. My friend who had come to stay with us two weeks earlier for five or six days insisted on taking us out to dinner for Henry’s birthday. Henry didn’t shop for any of the party supplies, though he did get all the corazones cut up and marinating for the anticuchos.
So, Sunday dawned with a new plan in mind – I knew I was getting up early and now making cakes – three to be exact, it was decided… one chocolate and nuts, one orange, and one strawberry and coconut. Sticking with my tried and true genoise cakes, I made one plain one, a second with some cocoa in it, and then after freeing up the first pan, one with some grated orange peel in it. Now I know you think I have all sorts of fancy gadgets to work with – and until recently I had a very nice food processor with a mixing bowl option on it. But it isn’t working. But hey, I’ve got my trusty Sunbeam Mixmaster HMD Hand Mixer, circa 1960, in sort of a dingy salmon pink color (I’m sure once upon a time it was much pinker). It works, though it is a bit slower and more involved than a stand mixer… But the cakes turned out, and I dutifully sliced each in half, soaked them with a bit of sweetened condensed milk, filled one with strawberries pureed with some caramel liqueur, and then frosting it with sweetened whipped cream and garnishing with sliced, marinated strawberries; another filled with the leftover chocolate nut topping I made way too much of for Thanksgiving dinner, then a quick chocolate glaze and some remaining whole cashews and almonds; and the last, cooking up a quick orange marmalde for a filling, more whipped cream flavored with triple sec and grated orange peel for the topping.
So all was good… except of course his sister decided to spend the day playing internet games, and he was out looking for the party supplies… not that any party supply stores were open on a Sunday morning. So I got in some more practice on making ceviche, and then the sauces for the huancaina and ocopa. The tamales, we heard, were made, and due to arrive mid-afternoon. They did. Sis finally stopped cruising the information superhighway long enough to boil and peel potatoes and batatas for the various dishes. We figured out how to cram a dozen 2-liter bottles of soda and two cases of beer into the refrigerator and freezer – of course, none of them getting remotely cold. Henry gave up on party favors and just came back with sandwich fixings and made several dozen mini sandwiches for people to snack on. And despite the fact that I was still puttering around in the kitchen in my pajamas putting finishing touches on stuff at 2:30 or so, it all went pretty smoothly. Even the repeats on portions of last year’s drag shows.
And hey, I now really do know how to make ceviche, ocopa, and huancaina… oh, and we have about six pounds of leftover, uncooked, anticuchos – really, not everyone likes eating grilled, marinated, spicy, cow hearts… not even, it turns out, all the Peruvians…