As far as I can remember, the first time that Renata and ever I entertained was during Thanksgiving 2005, when we invited a bunch of friends who had no family in town to join us, since we didn’t have (and still don’t) have family around unless we fly three thousand miles away from where we live. The menu was very un-holiday like, since I prepared an assortment of international vegetarian finger foods ranging from Indian samosas, calzones, Polish pierogis and other dishes that I simply cannot remember (I think there was a vegetarian loaf made from beans from a recipe book given to me by a relative, but someone who was there and is reading this would have to remember). Everyone was asked to bring something to drink, and everyone obliged – one of them actually brought too much.
From that day, we have infrequently invited people to our home, and I have cooked different kind of dishes depending on the occasion. We sometimes have people over during birthdays or for no specific reason at all, and I have delighted in cooking for all of them over the years. Sometimes these ‘parties’ came to be over a challenge: once a friend of Renata’s doubted that I could make a certain Korean dish (pajeon, or Korean pancake) and then invited herself and a Korean friend of hers to ‘test’ my skills.
Lately, these events have become rarer and rarer – basically because I got tired of people flaking out on me at the last minute (what am I supposed to do with all that food?) or when picky guests made an issue over the ingredients I used (too spicy! I don’t like seafood!). Another reason is actually more selfish – after a hectic week that often includes weekend gigs, rehearsals or even work-related stuff, Sunday became a day to just relax and be with each other.
When we do have people over, I try to think out of the box. For instance, I would never cook Polish when someone from Renata’s side of the world is here. After all, they get their ‘own’ food all the time, so why would I just give them more of the same? When Renata’s relatives were here in 2009, I prepared a Portuguese meal that consisted of a carrot appetizer, a salad and oven-baked codfish with potatoes; when my mom came here from Brazil I went around the world, even making Hungarian-style goulash. When I go to Fortaleza I pretty much commandeer her kitchen and cook dinner after dinner while getting complaints from my mom that I am fattening her with my rather rich dishes.
Recipe: Korean pancake (pajeon)
- Clean, wash, and drain a handful of wild green onions (or about 10 stalks of normal green onion).
- Cut them into 5 inch long pieces.
- Make batter by mixing ½ cup flour, ½ cup water, 1 ts soybean paste, and ½ ts sugar in a bowl. Mix well until the batter is smooth.
- Place a non-stick pan on the stove and heat it up.
- Add about 3 tbs vegetable oil to the heated pan.
- Put the green onion on the pan parallel to each other, in the shape of a rectangle.
- Pour the batter over the green onion evenly.
*tip: If you want some seafood (chopped squid, mussels or fresh oysters) in your pancake add it on top of the green onion before pouring the batter.
- While the pancake is being cooked, keep patting it, pressing it slightly, and keeping it in a nice shape with your spatula.
- A few minutes later, when the bottom of the pancake turns crispy and golden brown, turn it over.
- Cook a few more minutes until the bottom of the pancake turns crispy and golden brown again, and flip it or turn it over.
- Cook another minute and transfer it to a serving plate.
- Serve hot with sauce.