Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crazy Dinner Party... also a Halloween theme... or not

(I cannot take credit for this post. It is from a blog and once I read it I knew that first of all I had to share it with you all and second I have to do one of these parties myself!!! Now on to the article.....)

So I keep talking about our Halloween dinner parties, but I have never explained them. I look forward to them all year. Grab a cuppa and have a seat, because this is a lengthy one. Fun but wordy.

Apparently, they used to be all the rage back in an age that has long fallen out of favor and looks not likely to return soon.

We call it our crazy dinner (only because it was what my mother called hers when my parents sent out their invitations). The general idea is you have your dinner participants over, sit them down at an empty table, present to them a printed menu, and have them order a preset number of courses for their meals (we have ranged from two to three courses with three to five items per course, depending on how long we wish to torture our friends).

Here’s the rub.

Nothing on the menu is normally named.
Another rub.

All course choices must be selected and returned to the hosts before the first course is brought to the table.
The third rub.

All food on the plate must be eaten completely before the next course can be brought to the table (more on that later).

In order to ensure a safe and enjoyable meal for everyone involved, I always always verify that there are no food allergies among my guests and I always ask for a detailed list of foods my guests absolutely will not eat. This entire meal is for fun, and there is no sense in making someone eat something they cannot stand.

For example, I cannot eat melon of any type. I think it is a beautiful gorgeous creation and wish with all my heart I could try it, but there is something in my body that rejects it wholeheartedly. It simply cannot and will not pass my lips.

I would never wish that horror on someone over a game, so if you have a party like this, please have the same courtesy for your guests. Obviously, you do not want to tell them why you need the information, but you need to stress the importance of gathering it. No one has ever held out on me yet.

The last rub.

Everything, but everything - with the exception of the dishes that the food is served upon, is part of the menu selections. Therefore, if our guests did not order it, they don’t get it, which means no fork, spoon, knife, no napkin and no drinking glass. This always brings a great laugh when they figure out that they are looking at a plate of various foods… with no dining utensils. As Americans are unaccustomed to eating without dining utensils, it always puts us out of our comfort zone and is good for a bit of fun.
One final trick.

So that the hosts get to participate in the fun, select someone from amongst the guests to fill out your menu selections. It will be difficult, but keep a poker face and enjoy being part of the game (especially if you find yourself on the receiving end of jello salad with only a knife with which to eat).
Over the years that we have done this, we have created a different menu for each and every year. We always try to invite different people, because, of course, once the secret is out, the shock value behind the crazy dinner is spoiled. Because the Mister and I hold this dinner annually at Halloween, over the course of the years we have frequently invited the same people. This is not a problem because each year we change not only the meal planned, but the false menu names as well, so as to confuse our guests anew each year.

Below are two of the menus from various crazy dinners. The first is the very original list from my mother’s dinner party that the Mister and I used as the template for our very first dinner party. Then, as it was Halloween, the second list is a typical menu from one of the years that we have done this:

Again, as a reminder of how the dinner party would progress. The guests would be shown to the table, where they will find at their seats a pre-printed menu with the dinner’s menu choices (a very important point, the answers are not included obviously. Only the hosts master copy of the menu has all the answers written on it).
The “rules” of the dinner party are then explained to the guests:

there will be x number of courses with x number of items in each course (you must determine for yourself how many courses you want to have and how many items you want to serve with each course)
all items for each course must be selected now before the meal can begin
all the food on each plate must be eaten before the next course can be brought to the table
we always request that a guest fill out a menu with meal choices for both the Mister and for me, so that we too can participate in the fun part of the evening, and since we already know the answers as to what the everything is, it is no fun to let us choose our own meals.
(we do not tell the guests that we will bring all the food to the table at the end of the courses as we do not want to give them a “get out of jail free” card for the awkward part of the party. We do assure them however that no one will go home hungry).
Here are those sample menus that the guests would see, with the answers that only the hosts would know. We do not include the answers on the guests menus:

First Menu (Mom’s original menu)
Bushes in the Forest = broccoli
Earthquake = jello
Snake Tongue = fork
Deep Freeze = ice cream
Pick-up Sticks = celery
Tubal Ligation = drinking straw
Frighten Feline = chicken
Drunken Logs = pickle
Orater Oricle = ham
Jack-be-Nimble= green beans
Pig’s Eyes= olives
Chip-off-the-old-block= toothpick
Sanguine “C” = tomatoes
Fogged in Boat = potatoes
Underground icicles = carrots
Rocks in a sock = green peas
Sword in a Scabard = knife & napkin
Working Man’s Wage = bread
Harlequin = cake
Lover’s Delight = spoon
Jacob’s Well = water glass [full]
Clouds in the Sky = cauliflower

Second Menu (our first Halloween-centric menu)
3.14159 = pie
Big bad wolf = ham
Cerberus = hot dog
Devils horns = pepperoncini peppers
Drunken skunks = pickles
Fart factory = broccoli
Ghost farts = air (nothing)
Ghost poop = marshmallows
Ghoul drool = jello
Gushy eyeballs = olives
Greasy intestines = Mac n cheese
Jellied judgment = chicken fingers
Lust in the dust = spoon
Moist scabs = raisins
Pus = mashed potatoes
Gopher fangs = carrots
Rat brains = cauliflower
Simple pimples = cherry tomatoes
Snake tongue = fork
Sword in a scabbard = knife and napkin
Vampire bane = garlic bread

As previously mentioned, at the conclusion of the menu selected courses, we bring out all choices to the table so our friends can serve themselves family style from whatever they liked. This ensures that no one leaves our table hungry and after all, it is a party. There is always more food than needed, including party munchies.
We always end the meal with one or more of the wild Halloween dessert recipes that I post. To date, my favorite dessert was the red velvet cake we baked and decorated to resemble a tombstone. It capped the evening’s festivities perfectly.

If you have not yet had a chance to throw a dinner party like this, I cannot recommend it enough. Pick your guests wisely, for they must be adventurous enough to be willing to go along with the joke. Do what we do to ensure a smooth evening; serve plenty of wine. It works wonders. I absolutely love Christmas and count it as my number one holiday, but over the years, our annual Halloween party has grown a very special place in my heart.
In fact, we have become so fond of our annual party, the Mister and I actually had to agree to divide the years. We had so much fun trying to determine first the menu, then the new unusual names for our written menu that to keep peace in our family, we divide our party by years now. We alternate years. The year that the Mister gets to cook, I get to decorate the house for the party, and of course, the year I get to cook, he gets to decorate the house.
As we have become more experienced with the mechanics of our party, we have also be able to experiment with the themes of the food itself. For example, one year, we were able to prepare a wonderful all Greek meal (extremely tasty, if I do say so myself, since that was my year to cook). Another year was all seafood (exceptionally flavorful, and the Mister’s year to cook).
We love our Halloween party. Once you get into the habit, this could become something you and your family loves too. I know the explanation of a crazy dinner is complex, but the execution is really very simple, so I encourage with my whole heart; please please try this. It is so much fun!
Invite just one family over to have fun with your family. Tell them you have something silly and fun planned. And then have a crazy dinner. Start a regular party. Invite a new family over from your church once a month and come up with a new menu every time (or maybe that new fellow from work you keep telling yourself you should get to know better and his family). Reach out to someone and invite them into your home.
The menu doesn’t have to be expensive at all. The creativity comes in trying to think up unusual names for everyday items we are used to putting in our mouths all the time. If cost is a concern, keep the menu to a single course and come up with new and unusual names for inexpensive vegetables and affordable grocery items that are within your budget. Adapt this fun to what works for your family.
Oh, crazy dinners are fun. I hope you have one. In fact, this is one way I can guarantee you will bring an evening full of joy into your home and into the lives of your guests. Good old fashioned joy. Who cares if your house is messy or the things don’t look just right. Just take a deep breath and take the plunge. I promise you, everyone will be having so much fun around the table, not a single person will be looking around the house to criticize your housekeeping. Take a chance and bring some joy into your lives and throw yourselves a crazy dinner soon!
For an awesome dinner placecard idea by this same author of the crazy dinner go to http://www.kattitudes.com/creative/2007/08/29/halloween-dinner-placeholders/
Article Source: http://www.kattitudes.com/creative/2007/09/22/crazy-dinner-party/

2 comments:

Jennifer said...

We love this "game"! Thanks for writing out such a good explanation of it. I always get frustrated at my inadequate description when trying to explain it to others so now I'll just send them here. :)

unaffiliated_entity said...

Hello, just curious if anyone is from around the Greater Toronto Area? I am currently casting for a Food Network show called 'Dinner Party Wars' and we are looking for pairs who can execute some of these great themes! If anyone is interested please contact me.