Dressing up for dinner might not be everyone idea of fun, but when the food and clothing go together in a well planned out theme it makes for a fun evening.
When I cooked on Class Afloat we did a lot of long transits, a week on the open ocean was standard, but we did cross the Atlantic a few times and that can take up to a month depending on your destination. The cook is often responsible for boosting moral, provide a sweet treat or cook a favorite meal to peak their interest, keep them occupied and give them something to look forward to. One of Class Afloat’s traditions was to have nice dinner on Sundays, bring everyone together to share a meal. Often people ate in a hurry to get to watch or go to bed and the adults didn’t often eat with the students; we wanted some peace and quite for our meal. On these special Sunday dinners, I’d plan a nicer menu, put more effort into the meal, use an expensive ingredient, and there was always a large dessert.
After a few Sunday dinners I wanted some direction to take my food in so I started to think of themes, pick a flavor, a country, a time period, book, movie, anything to give the meal direction. Most of the students would also take the opportunity on Sunday’s to dress up in their nicer clothes, which gave me the idea to find a menu theme that would also give them direction on what to wear to dinner.
My most successful theme was a birthday dinner for two girls, Pretty Pretty Princesses, I can’t recall what I made for dinner but I did a layered ice cream cake for dessert. The best part was that I asked everyone to dress up as princesses and lots of people participated. Schooner princess, Princess Bubblegum, Couscous Princess, Paper Bag Princess, there was a wide variety of ideas and lots of crowns made out of cardboard.
I was cooking princesses with a cardboard crown that had a whisk and spatula drawn on it. The most creative costume went to the student who dressed up as the Black Knight from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, he wore all black with a red t-shirt underneath so that he could roll the sleeve up to reveal some ‘blood’ as if he had his arm chopped off like the character in the movie.
Another good theme was a Greek night, everyone pulled the sheets off their beds and made togas, not everyone had white sheets so there were togas composed of purple hedgehogs, flower, lots of colors and even a flag as a very skimpy outfit. That evening for dinner I made roasted lamb and for dessert a honey almond and cornmeal cake with stewed fruits.
Theme meals don’t always have to go that far, they don’t have to envelope the whole evening, it can just be the menu. It’s nice to give food direction and having themes makes you discover new flavors and cuisines, I’m always looking for new things to create.