Back in the day, many of us celebrated our 21st birthday with a big Shebang Hooly Dooly party with birthday cards and cakes embellished with keys ( key to the door symbolising adult independence) pewter tankards (you can ‘officially’ drink now. Oh really?) and other emblematic gifts denoting our newly acquired status as adults. Does this still go on?
Mr Contract Lawyer Tranquillo used to ask this of his 20 something year old students. Who had a 21st birthday party? What did it mean to you and why? He was often met with blank stares. In Australia, 18 year olds can vote, go to war, drive a car, drink, sign contracts, own credit cards, buy houses, marry, and do all the other things expected of an adult. The fact that many ‘adults’ still live at home and behave like children is beside the point. Some will continue at home well into their 30s and, if Australia copies Italian trends, become Mammoni ( mummy’s boys). I note here that there doesn’t seem to be a language equivalent for women.
My son-in-law, Kyle, who sometimes calls himself ‘that tool in the toolbox’, was inclined to agree with this view, especially after the home catered 18th birthday party held on Saturday for Mischa Belle. There will be no 21st party as far as he is concerned. And really, why should there be? The event was costly, even with home cooked food and Aldi alcohol. The decor took days to set up. The hire of the security and DJ/photographer cost $800 alone. It was a fun and happy event but not one that should be repeated in a mere three years time. We will see!Catering for an 18th birthday is full of surprises. This is what I found out:
- young people do RSVP, especially now that security doormen are employed to check the party list. Great, you will have a fair indication of the numbers and so can cater sensibly.
- young people come, but they don’t necessarily stay. They arrive in a big tsunami, and then leave a few hours later.
- young people don’t eat much at parties.
- if they do eat at all, they prefer simple, recognisable, easy to handle, fodder food. Nothing flash or foody!
- those who get to stay, the inner circle, drink a lot. Those who drove to the party can’t have a single drink. That may explain the early exodus of some guests. Many walk or come by public transport. They are adults so drop the concern.
- it’s good to have a few older folk around, at least they eat all the food you have prepared. They also like to drink wine, not shooters. Well, most do…..pass me a Cowboy!
- a DJ, although expensive, is a good idea even if you hate doof-doof.
- tell all the neighbours about the party well in advance.
- having a few cooks on the job, other than the hosts, is a great idea. If cooking, wear sensible shoes. No one will notice your runners, I promise.
- have a few spare mattresses for the over- nighters and some buckets. I’ll spare you the graphic details.
- and, remember, they are really kids, despite their new legal status. Be nice and a little vigilant but have fun too.
The catering went well, although our family has a tendency to over cater. This time, not much food was wasted.
- pizze were made ahead and frozen. Pizze were baked on rectangular trays and cut into squares, producing 16- 20 per batch, depending on tray size. Making the dough in a bread machine makes things easy. As a new dough is mixing and rising – taking 90 minutes- the previous dough is rolled out, anointed with chosen toppings, cooked, cooled, sliced, wrapped then frozen. Repeat this all day until you fall over and yell “Hold, enough” and reach for the wine.
- Make sure that all the toppings are cut, sliced and ready to go. Also make sure that there is an equal mixture of meat and vegetarian and a dairy free version such as a Pissaladiere. Eight trays will produce a goodly amount. On the night, bring them from the freezer and gauge demand. Leftovers make a great after party pick me up.
- Mini Quiche. These were really popular with the hungry older adults. Use commercial short crust pastry sheets. These make the job much easier. One packet of five sheets will yield 60 pies, less the ones you eat along the way! Use left over caramelised onion from the pissaladiere, tasty cheese, chives, herbs, hot smoked salmon, pesto, whatever is on hand. Save the scraps of pastry for a post party jam crostata.
- Sandwiches cut into points. Everyday fillings were popular, such as, shredded chicken ( store-bought roasted chicken) with mayo and chives, ham and cheese, hard boiled egg, herbs and mayo. These need to be made on the day and boxed in airtight containers. Search out a bakery that will cut a block loaf of white bread into sandwich slices. Have you noticed the size of the supposed sandwich slices from Coles bakery bread? They are just too fat for dainty point sandwiches. This was a major disappointment, and as the sandwich maker and general caterer, really annoyed me. Never again! At least bakeries can adjust their slicing machines. There were 17 slices to the Coles packet, often with one wasted as it was partly crusted. My chooks enjoyed the waste. So 16 slices of bread alla Coles =32 points x 4 packets of sliced bread= 128 points. Most of these were eaten, and those with mayo were better, given the nature of that bread.
- Sausage Rolls are always a winner and, predictably, they all disappeared. They were made using a traditional recipe and did not include carrots or any other vegetable matter except onion. Commercial puff pastry – 9 sheets to a packet and one kilogram of sausage mince – produced 148 mini sausage rolls with one sheet of puff pastry left over. My daughter- in- law hoovered a few before the party!
- About that Costco purchased pre-made stuff. One packet of tiny pre-made blini at around $6.00 were disappointing and inedible, despite their lovely mascapone and smoked salmon topping. The pre-made frozen arancini were not good either. So it’s back to ‘made from scratch’ for this old party animal!
There were lots of other treats. Some beautiful stuffed mushrooms, met with disdain by the young adults, but welcomed by the older ones. Lots of helpers with cooking- thanks Sunshine, and bar people extraordinaire- Rachel B and Co. Lots of cleaners and sweet makers and dancing queens.
Happy Birthday Mischa Belle! Ma chère petite fille and to you too Rachael, daughter and best friend.