Celebrating adult birthdays


A mini greek salad on a spoon

This year Mr. Tucker turns a ripe age of 43. While he has never been one for lots of gifts and fanfare, this year he has decided to turn his birthday on its head and do something different. So instead of going out or getting gifts he decided to invite some of our friends over for dinner. A dinner cooked by him.

Typically, we use our birthdays as an excuse to go out and enjoy a meal at a high-end restaurant because that is how we prefer to spend our eating out dollars. I remember a conversation with a colleague from way back before we had kids. This colleague would go out every day and spend about $10 on lunch. Over a month it would add up to a substantial amount of money. One Monday we were discussing the previous weekend where Mr. Tucker and I had explored a new fancy restaurant. My colleague was shocked we’d spend $200 on a meal. “Well,” I said, “You spend about $200 on eating out a month for lunch, I just prefer to spend it on one special meal.” He thought about it for a minute and then actually did the math in his head and realized that he did spend a lot of money on eating out. He also decided that for him, spending money on lunch was something he felt he got value out of, whereas I didn’t.

The point of this exercise is not to compare values. I have almost always preferred to brown bag it and save my money up for a great meal. That doesn’t appeal to my colleague at all but he believed he got value from not having to make lunch every day. We both made the right decisions for our own lives. Of course, a lot of people could look at us and think we were wasteful with money if food was low-priority to them and they always preferred to eat at home and brown bag it. There is no right way for every person.

However, if you love to cook, there is a middle ground.

One of Mr. Tucker’s favourite things in the world is cooking. Some people like making good food, some people like eating good food, and some people like both. He likes both. He also knows that at his age he will never be a famous chef so he settles for second-best, which is to serve great food to the people he loves. So while usually the girls and I are the lucky recipients of the things he concocts, this year for his birthday he decided to create and serve a dinner for his friends.

Pretty much my favourite thing: chilled avocado soup with dill, pancetta and lime

Over the past month Mr. Tucker has been pouring over recipes, making test batches of food choosing drink parings, and preparing to cook for eight people on his birthday. When he finalized his menu, he then contacted local farmers to procure his ingredients and prepared for his big day.

The outcome was incredible. Because Mr. Tucker was doing it all himself, the courses had a good amount of time between them. That allowed us to just chat and catch up with friends that we don’t often get the chance to see. The food was to-die-for, the drink pairings were perfect and we had what was a 5-star experience at a 2-star price. Our friends didn’t have to spend a fortune on a dinner out and we got to have a more low-key evening than we would have had if we had done the fancy-dinner-and-then-cocktails-after thing. Since our parents often gift us cash for our birthdays (despite our protests), the entire thing came to less than $100 for eight people once we heaped the birthday money into the mix.

Goat cheese and beet salad with candied walnuts and mache (a little too much of a close-up!)

While I understand that not everyone is capable, willing or interested in cooking a huge five-course meal for eight people, that’s not the point. The idea is to think of the things you enjoy and make them happen instead of just choosing the same old, same old. Sure, there may be not much frugal about buying a local prime rib roast from a local farmer but we managed to save some of our cash over the past couple of months. That money, combined with Mr. Tucker’s gifts, made the evening happen.

The piece de resistance: local prime rib with horseradish cream, purple and yellow sesame green beans, maple and dill carrots served with potato croquettes

Adult birthdays can be so weird because for the majority of us we have all we want and all we need. I often lament that shopping for friends and family is super difficult because if they want something they usually buy it themselves. For me, I don’t really want or need anything– certainly not more stuff. I usually ask family for babysitting! Asking friends and family to set aside some time to spend an evening with you is a nice gift to be asked to give.