"Allegiance, after all, has to work two ways; and one can grow weary of an allegiance which is not reciprocal." ―James Baldwin
One of the more fun chapters of my life occurred during the early to mid 2000s when my daughter attended Montessori Schoolhouse from Kindergarten through 4th grade and I had a business development position with one of the larger employers in Tucson. Most of my business travel occurred during the summers and I had the pleasure of meeting my customers at conventions hosted in fun cities such as Chicago, Boston, and Washington D.C. and not as much fun destinations like Dallas, Orlando and Las Vegas (seriously, go to Vegas 11 times in one year and you won't be diggin' it either).
Layered on top of busy school and work schedules, my husband and I undertook the long laborious affair of remodeling our home as a do-it-yourself project. As if that wasn't enough activity, it was also the the time in our lives when we entertained like crazy. We often entertained in conjunction with my good friend who also happened to be the mother of my daughter's best friend. We did not limit our entertaining to small cozy affairs. We also threw big, raucous parties where we commingled friends, neighbors, colleagues and acquaintances from all the parts of our lives. It was a mash-up of sorts and all the many different personalities came together to create a spectacle, especially at our annual Halloween bash. My friend and I had no sooner cleaned up a big mess of a party, when we began to plan our next big event. Now when I look back, I marvel at what we accomplished.
|Pickled Shrimp are a tangy accompaniment served with the deviled eggs.
Juliette found the specialty egg plates while thrifting for about a $1.00 each. Score!
This past Christmas I transformed into a lady Grinch. After Linda visited just after Thanksgiving and we had our big family celebration, the holiday season was over for me. Yes, we still exchanged presents, but there were no big family dinners or fanfare of any kind. Ixnay to the New Year's Eve party. I freed myself from all the extra curricular (and exhausting) work that comes along with the holidays, and you know what? It was great. We adopted my sister Juliette's tradition of watching films on Christmas Day as we lounged on the couch or sat comfortably cradled in our large padded chairs, resting our legs on the overstuffed armrests or on cushy ottomons. And for a simple dinner I heated defrosted homemade Beef Bourguignon and quickly whipped up fluffy mashed potatoes. Clean-up was a breeze. The dinner dishes were managed within fifteen minutes. Now that's a holiday.
When Easter was within planning range this year I vacillated over whether to have a family dinner. Entertaining just seems like so much work now. My party flame has been extinguished and I don't quite know if I want to relight it. Every once in a while I get a party gleam in my eye and then I begin reminding myself of everything that's involved from the planning to the pre-cleaning of the house, to the grocery shopping, to the preparing of food, to the post-cleaning. Then there's the expense. It ain't cheap to entertain.
When I invite you to my house to participate in a simple dinner or a big party, the invitation and the work associated with prepping the meal and the environment to enjoy in, is in fact, an act of love. What confounded me over time were our friends who made no effort to be reciprocal. We'd have them over again and again and yet they wouldn't invite us over, or out. Our best friends became those who showed us that they loved us back by being reciprocal in some way by either inviting us over for a meal or, if they didn't like to cook, taking us out to a favorite restaurant. And, don't even get me started on guests who bring Two Buck Chuck as a hostess gift and act like it is the greatest find in wine... ever. Two Buck Chuck is what it is. The swill masquerading as wine costs $2.00 and tastes like it too.
While vacillating over whether to host Easter dinner, my daughter pushed me over the edge when she offered to lend a helping hand in the kitchen. I have found over the years it is so much easier when there is more than one person helping to prepare a fancy meal, or any meal for that matter. The proverb is true, many hands make light work. Plus there's the added benefit of shared camaraderie. Often, the kitchen is the best place to be. It's where the action is unfolding. That's why everyone jams themselves in to a kitchen during a party. Linda and I have so much fun working together to prepare a meal and it is great theater when we're in our groove. Linda's flown to Arizona more than a few times to help with the cooking for our big parties and special occasions, which makes the entire experience so much more enjoyable from beginning to end. Have I mentioned lately how much I adore my sisters? I do. They are fabulous in every way.
|Maddie and I prepared a double batch of Avalon and Sonora's Favorite Chimichurri
so we could send them home with a jar filled to the brim with their favorite sauce.
I tend to always make one new dish for an event, which reminds me of my friend Stephanie and the time I hosted a Spanish dinner. I assume if you are coming to my house that you must be starving and want loads of food, and variety, of course. I tend to offer big portions and lots of sides. There are always several appetizers for a party and there is always a risk that guests will fill-up on cheeses, maple sugared candied walnuts, charcuterie and shrimp before the main affair hits the table.
One of the sides for the Spanish dinner were roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with a mixture of mashed potatoes and salt cod. I was running behind on dinner because I was fussing around with the appetizers, grilled flat breads with chimichurri sauce (still one of the best things I have ever tasted). Everybody was chowing down and dinner was yet to be served. Stephanie was dressed up and looking fabulous, as always. She asked if she could assist me in any way. I hesitated, assessing her outfit and not wanting her to get messy. "There is one thing," I said reluctantly. "I need the piquillo peppers stuffed."
Stephanie gamely put on an apron and got to work scooping the savory white mixture into the small roasted red peppers. I apologized for the chaos of the evening. Stephanie and her husband are admirably organized when they entertain and have practically the entire meal prepared in advance. I'm always amazed at their operational efficiency. Stephanie laid my concerns to rest. "Are you kidding?" she asked rhetorically. "Where else in town town would I be stuffing cod into a pepper." I still laugh at the memory. It's true. I'm always doing something crazy foodwise. And when I'm in the middle of pickling or preserving or doing some intricate activity in the kitchen, I'll repeat to myself Stephanie's line. By the way, the cod stuffed peppers weren't that great (they are likely an acquired taste), but who cares? The rest of Spanish themed dinner was pretty amazing.
For our lovely Spring dinner to celebrate Easter, I broke no new ground. That's how I kept things simple. I settled on the favorites. And by doing so, Maddie and I could practically make everything without a recipe. My husband grilled New York steaks and we rounded out the menu with loaded baked potatoes, pickled shrimp, sautéed and caramelized mushrooms, grape tomato halves with balsamic syrup vinaigrette and chimichurri.
When I greeted my nieces at the door and said there will be lemon cake and strawberries they both cheered. And they were especially happy that I made a double recipe of chimichurri with the plan of sending them home with a full jar of the condiment. My Easter surprise for Maddie was a special cheese that Linda introduced us to when we lived in California with her for a year. Maddie couldn't wait to dig into the rich creamy deliciousness that's called Mt. Tam Triple Cream Cheese by Cowgirl Creamery.
|My daughter brushes lemon glaze and drizzles frosting on Lemon Cakes
while I peel the hard boiled egg.
Even though I no longer have a huge desire to entertain, especially like we did during the glory years when my daughter was just a young girl and we had a big group of friends from all walks of life, I do still recognize the importance to connect, to share a meal together, to share stories and above all, share laughter. We all seem to live such busy lives now that if we don't carve out time to simply be together, it just doesn't happen at all. So, I'll slog through the bits that I really don't really care for anymore to get to the end goal... time well spent with family and friends enjoying each others company and strengthening our relationships through the time honored tradition of sharing a well-crated meal.
Mom's Deviled Eggs