Ego Food

A few days ago, we received an emailed invitation to join a few other families from our church for a casual holiday get-together and “Please bring finger food to share.”

That sounds like it should be simple enough; all that’s required is to show up at the designated time and place with a tray of Bagel Bites. Or if I want to contribute snacks that are less white-bread, I can go to Trader Joe’s and choose from Spanakopita, or Spring Rolls, or meatballs, and on and on.

But instead, I started listening to a little voice inside of me that says, “Grabbing a box off the shelf is a much too easy. Everybody does that. You should make something to show off your cooking skills. Think how great you’ll feel when you whip off the foil and hear the compliments for your delectable and beautiful hors d’oeuvres.”

Now I have got my teeth and my ego into my finger food offering. I’m determined that I’m not going to take the easy way out and show up with a hunk of cheese and a box of Triscuits. “That’s for wimps!”

Over the course of a day, I have become totally invested in the process; I’m not just looking for a recipe, I’m on a quest for the perfect balance between taste, appearance, preparation, and oh yes, price”¦so forget the platters of shrimp. It starts consuming me. When I’m nestled all snug in my bed, it’s visions of finger food that dance through my head. And during the day, Steve notices a distracted expression on my face and comments, “You’re thinking about crudités again aren’t you?”

I start scouring the internet for appetizer recipes. This assignment calls for backup so I enlisted the help of my daughters and we scroll through pages of recipes on the Food Network and Epicurious websites. We are struck by the strange combinations of expensive ingredients, the fussiness of the preparation, and how unappetizing most of the appetizer recipes sounded. The staples in this category are goat cheese, dates, and figs, and as Jennifer points out, it’s always wrapped in proscuitto. Or in Paula Deen’s more down-home (dare I say redneck?) version; it’s lunchmeat wrapped around cream cheese and pickles. We let out a unanimous “Yuck.”

After searching through a few pages of “Quince Paste Napoleons,” “Carrot-Beef Sushi,” “Foie Gras with Date Puree,” “Proscuitto-Wrapped Figs with Goat Cheese,” and “Duck Pastrami,” the three of us started coming up with our own ridiculous appetizer combinations of cheese, balls, dates, nuts and proscuitto”¦and we couldn’t stop laughing.

It must have been the serotonin that was released in my brain by spending the half hour laughing with my daughters because by the next day, my compulsion to find the perfect finger food was gone. I guess you could say I got my perspective back because whatever I decided to take to the party just didn’t seem very important anymore. After all, it’s just snacks”¦and not a test of character and proof of who I am as a person.

So I opened the freezer and was delighted to find that I had almost a full bag of potstickers from Costco. I boiled and browned them and lined them up a platter with the dipping sauce in the middle, and it looked darn nice. I had to smile when I brought back home the empty plate. For a while there, I had worked myself up about bringing something that would impress everyone; but the ironic part is, that at the party no one knew who brought which tray of finger food. Thank goodness I didn’t spend hours making “Crostini with Beef Tartare and White Truffle Oil.”

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