When it comes to family parties/dinners, I find myself in charge of the nibbles platter. Somehow, one time, I must have put stuff on a plate in an obsessive compulsive manner, and now it is my official duty.
After MasterChef became a thing, some relative or other would suggest or imply that I must have learnt how to apply boring repetition from watching that show. Truth is, they'd never 'plate up' anything in so boring a manner. And I normally wouldn't make that much of an effort. I mean, I don't even bother draining rice. (And besides, regular readers of this blog will know my attitude to that show.)
This is the one I put together a couple of weeks ago for a visit of some cousins who, until they moved away many, many years ago, lived down the street from my mum when she was a little girl.
Let me deconstruct it for you. I'll move from the inner core to the outer edge, but when I constructed it I worked in the other direction.
At the centre we have bocconcini cheese. It's name comes from a word that means 'mouthful' - because that's what each little ball of cheese is. I know I should probably be buying these fresh from the deli, if not the boutique dairy farm outlet - but I get them in a plastic container from the supermarket. I've stacked them in a pile - easier to do when you're doing it last of all, in the centre. There are always some left over that you kid yourself you'll eat another time. But you never do. You come back to a container of hard balls of cheese best left for the worm farm. There's a good reason for keeping bocconcini at the centre - you can include all of it so it gets eaten by you and the people you like.
Next we have a circle of black olives. Yes, I confess, also from the jar. Ideally you'd get some different kinds from the deli and mix them in the 'olive orbit' more-or-less randomly. Because bocconcini from the tub and olives from the jar are wet, best to put them towards the centre, and certainly not next to the crackers. Nobody likes damp crackers. Except surfer dudes in the 60s or boarding school educated boys forever, according to apocryphal stories. I pitted the olives in this instance, but I don't always bother.
Another circle of cheese, this time provolone - the prince of all cheeses. If you buy provolone as a whole cheese, it comes in a cylinder. I slice thick circles, and then chop them into quarters so the pieces can stand. If you buy your provolone in slices from the deli, you can roll them and fold them, or roll them and slice the rolls in half and stand them up.
The thin orbit of salami that follows was an after-thought - there was so much cheese and so little cold meat. I know processed pork products such as salami are not for everyone. But they're certainly for me. One time when I was seeking professional help for my psoriasis, the quack of a snake oil salesman tried to convince me that, to cure my rash totally, I'd need to give up pork, wheat and tomato. I suggested I just give up breathing since it would be much easier; I'm a southern Italian - those foodstuffs are the basic building blocks of virtually everything. Well, certainly almost everything - because they are what you make spaghetti and meatballs with. Pasta Bolognese e polpetti. That's virtually every meal.
Yet another circle of cheese. One of the soft French varieties. It's either Brie or Camembert. I have no idea which, and anyone who claims they do - without reading it on the label - isn't really your friend; they're just pretending. It doesn't matter which anyway.
More o' that yummy salami.
And a final orbit of Jatz. Your favourite cracker is suitable, even if it doesn't happen to be Jatz.