I’m beginning to know why people have their fiftieth birthday parties catered, or at venues and restaurants… so much less organising, and anguishing about whether it will rain or not… as I am at the moment. I am having my party at home, for friends, and I plan to have everything set out outside, in the back courtyard, hopefully under a starry sky. The weather forecast says 39% rain for next Saturday, and if that 39% happens in my suburb, I will be wishing that I’d rather booked a restaurant!

Earlier tonight I sat making a final list of guests (almost everyone on my first list to invite have accepted), and then, on a fresh piece of paper, my final To Do and To Get list. It is a long list. I have decided on a Middle Eastern theme for food. On my list of food ingredients: Chickpeas, lamb, aubergine, lemons, coriander, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, pita bread, olives, baklava, Turkish delight, almonds, pistacchios…. I brought back two packets of sumac from Paris, not having been able to find that in Jhb earlier when I wanted to make a Lebanese dish… I cannot wait to incorporate that into the fatoush(like panzanella but with toasted pita and a lemon and oil and garlic and sumac dressing) that I will serve alongside heaps of falafel, lamb and chicken kebabs, hummus, babaganoush, with pita.. I am making the falafel myself: I had been doing a bit of a taste test of some places making falafel, but they don’t come close to tasting the way I made them last weekend from a new recipe: with soaked dried chickpeas, not tinned ones, green with herbs, fragrant with spices, a slight chilli pepper bite to them, so I will be at the stove cooking falafel an hour before the guests arrive on Saturday! And then have to jump into the shower to get the frying oil smell out of my hair no doubt before I put on my party dress!

The babaganoush, that wonderful eggplant puree I will make from a recipe my fiancée had brought back from Israel when he was in his early twenties: that at least can be made a day before..

So my list awaits on my desk: a whole A4 page, dense with writing. I am an inveterate list maker. It’s an important part of the ritual of entertaining to me. To first sit and write down ideas for a menu: I usually have two or three options, and often the final choice comes down to who I am inviting. Then, once that is decided, the list becomes more specific: the To Get part first: from flowers and candles to a particular brand of whiskey which a particular guest may prefer… then a To Do part… even obvious things like “pick up ice from bottle store” gets written down. I sound like a super organised person no doubt, and in some ways I am. But this is more about feeling more certain and less anxious than efficiency, I have to confess! Also, I like writing… so sitting doing a list, hearing the scratching of my fountain pen, seeing words appear in neat rows give me immense pleasure.

I have a collection of old shopping lists in several journals and even cookbooks, culled from handbags and purses, some written even on the back of envelopes, or on torn out notepaper, denoting special meals cooked in the past: I can write a book based on those: each a little story… my life measured out in abandoned food shopping lists!

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