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Food Bytes PG Cookbook The Food Chain
Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Dinner for 8 tests her solo living skills

Thursday, June 17, 1999

By Suzanne Martinson, Post-Gazette Food Editor

Our daughter, Jessica, had her first dinner party in her first apartment.

When you send your kid off the college, three question crop up: Will she study? Will she find work? Can she cook Dinner for Eight?

It's hard to tell which was the most challenging for Jessica: the menu or the marketing. As for me, good old Mom, I was on for mentoring. We started with e-mails in search of recipes, ended with telephone conversations full of pep talk.

"What I really want to make is Bachelor Pasta," she says, referring to a delightful dish I had written about that Gino (her and my hairdresser) and his friend Emilio had described as the way to impress women.

"Is it my imagination, or will this cost a lot of money?" Jessica worries.

I message her with an option: her dad's spaghetti and meat sauce. But she and a friend go on a shopping excursion, find chicken breasts on sale, opt out of the olives and hot Italian pepper, double the artichoke hearts and cling to the Asiago cheese. Bachelor Pasta it is.

She bought two pounds of pasta. Her friends bring stuff. Cappuccino, a member of the Tuba Trust, creates a delicious chocolate-banana mousse in an Oreo-like crust, JMFK brings French bread, which she turns into garlic bread, and Booger, originally assigned to salad, opts instead for a veggie pizza (the appetizer with the crescent roll crust and a topping of cream cheese and vegetables).

That was the guys.

The three young women also contribute. Her shopping-savvy friend Carin brings dried chili and oregano from home and Kari brings an extra fan. The third, Rhiannon, the recently engaged guest of honor, carries in her swimming suit -- inspiration for working off the meal.

On the morning of the dinner, Jessica calls to report, "I was up until 2 o'clock last night. My dishes were gross."

The only dishwasher in her "furnished" apartment is her. (It was missing a bed, too, but friends lent her a mattress. She is also missing a chest of drawers, but that's probably a non-issue. Don't teens' stuff "belong" on the floor? But wait, she isn't a teen-ager anymore. She turned 20 on Tuesday. That changes everything.)

When she moved into the apartment, money management also took up residence. She's trying to live on her park co-ranger salary.

"How hot is it there?" I ask.

In the 90s, with the humidity to match, she admits.

"Do you have on your air conditioner?"

"Costs too much," she says.

Dad, listening in, says he'll spot her five bucks to turn on the air conditioner and chill out the dinner party. He overheats, too.

She won't have anything to do with the offer.

In a follow-up report, we discover that the air conditioner flunked. "We had three burners and the oven going," she says. "Oh, it was hot."

A cross-blast from two fans dissipated the heat from the kitchen somewhat.

The after-dinner activity was swimming.

She explains: "Carin wore one of my smaller swimsuits. Rhiannon knew my apartment had a pool and brought one with her. Kari didn't want to swim."

And the guys?

"They didn't know there was a pool," Jessica says, pausing. Thoughts of college boys running toward the water -- barrel-naked -- crowd my frenzied Mom mind.

"What did they do?" I ask.

"They borrowed my workout shorts," she says.

In my day and age (it just slipped out), no guy would have been caught dead wearing a female's shorts, never mind that today's fashions are unisex.

Also in my day and age, I wish I'd known even one guy who would offer to make a chocolate anything.

As for the Bachelor Pasta, it was a hit. Jessica and Carin's sweetheart Max dove for every last artichoke heart and, though some of the garlic bread burnt a bit, there was plenty.

Jessica's kitchen equipment met the test, though she longed for the family garlic press. Her hands still smell. "That's a good smell," her dad says.

"I have one serving left -- it'll be my lunch at work," she says.

Still trying to pinch pennies. Another good thing.

Related Recipes:

Emilio's and Gino's Bachelor Pasta

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