i mentioned that last night we had a bit of a fiesta of food and friendship (nice f words are fun). i kind of skirted over it, but it was very food oriented and deserves its own blogspot of its very special own... ness.
the idea came to me awhile ago to do a happy hour with my buddies here in the red middle of the country and it was really for no particular reason, just a chance to hang and get toasted with work people, actually. but, when i had to postpone it, i realized the friday after the election would be a good day to celebrate or commiserate (yikes!) as we saw fit. i had no idea what i was going to serve, just where to do it: my friend, melissa's, party room in her condo building... as i said in the last post. so, no, i don't have short term memory loss. think of this as a television soap opera and i am recapping all of the highlights from the last episode in the first 30 seconds. sound fair?
okay, so my pal kindly agreed to work out the logistics of getting the room while i said i would do the food. she looked at me as if i had gone mad and i pointed out that, ya know, i used to do this for a living and liked doing it and got into the habit of entertaining like this, so i had to do it my way OR I WOULD GO FREAKIN' CRAZY!!! i just couldn't go and grab some wine, bread, cheese, fruit, crackers, lay it out and sit back. i had it to be what I WANTED for a happy hour that would last way past normal happy hour time -- it went from 5:30 until 11:00 at night, but pro'ly would have gone later if we'd done it on a saturday. pro'ly. anywho, so i began the process of putting together a menu for the shindig which was pretty fantastic and fun for me, cuz i hadn't done that for a long time, not since this siesta thing i had done soon after i moved here to thank the women who had welcomed me into their friendship-y kinda hearts. a total girly party with little slippers for yummy relaxation, mini-electric massagers and lots of sleepy areas to just chill the whole afternoon through.
i'm doin' that again. i LOVED getting that ready.
but, as always, i digress...
for this party, i wanted to have food that would appeal to vegans, vegetarians, non-beef AND beef eaters. men and women, boozehounds and highbrows. a good mix of yums as well as sweets that could give people lots of smiles, hopefully. when i looked at the menu i initially created i heard a voice inside of me say, in a rather sarcastic and irritating voice, "yeah, that TOTALLY makes sense. that won't stress you out AT ALL... right..." there were about 20 main course dish things on this list. how crazy i am is really my own burden to bear, i promise. i don't put it on my kids too, too much and try not to have my friends have to bear the load for me (anymore), but, yes, i'm nuts. and i'm all right with that (and i'm allowed to say things like "nuts" and "looney" when speaking of myself, because i used to work for the Mental Health Association of Los Angeles County, was a staunch advocate for mental health and focused on policies surrounding the better treatment for those suffering from it and have a deep and abiding affection for the cause, mean this in the absolutely least derogative way to those who actually suffer from mental illness and would never, in a million years, use this in serious discussion of such, so just back off). WHEW! might be some baggage there i need to clear up, but as i was saying, i needed to really shave off those dishes. i did... and i told myself that... and i did...
but not by much.
i now possess enough wine to make me able to go to book club without having to BUY a bottle of wine for a solid 2 years and that's only if we actually have book club every single month or i go every single month. if we or i skip a month, i have enough wine for much longer. i also have enough food to feed my sons without having to cook a single thing for the next full week as in 7 days... that is, if my sons weren't already taller than i, weigh more than i hope i EVER WILL and 11 and 12 1/2 size feet (and they are, as a reminder, as soap operas do, 12 and 13 years old... yep...
but, and i can not say this enough, that doesn't matter to me, because i loved each and every minute of putting this together, creating the list, making the food, plating it, writing what would go with what, finding the right platters, etc. i LOVED IT! it exhausted me, i am still, now, so tired, i can't close my eyes and i had to be up at 5:15 in the morning to take my older son to his last weekend of football so we could be there at 6:30 in the morning for weigh in and it was 32 degrees outside in a blustery wind (um, in case you didn't realize, they play that sport outside). i didn't go to sleep until a bit after 2:00 in the morning, because i was unloading my car of all the stuff i had taken to the party and putting away anything that could go bad if left out, which was a lot. thank the wondrous energy of faith based perfection (whatever your choice might be with that) for my having two fridges, 2 regular sized freezers and one deep freeze ( i also have a gas stove sitting in my garage waiting to be hooked up or sold, whichever becomes more vital to my existence, but that's another story for another time). i would do it again in a heartbeat, i'd do it every weekend if i could. i love feeding my friends and family in a festive atmosphere and here's why:
because it's pure joy, love, warmth, caring, passion, desire, life. food, to me, is not just sustenance. it is an event, it is beauty. when treated the right way, to me, food becomes a door opening up for new ways of talking, loving, being. i can not tell you enough how deep my affection for cooking goes. i would give everything up (except for writing, my children, my pets and my family, so not EVERYTHING, but everything else... oh, and except my friends. i like my friends a lot) to be able to cook in a great kitchen for the rest of my life and share that cooking with many people. not like in a restaurant, but in my home. cooking, eating, FEEDING is communal. i like the social aspect of it, the way of tasting something, letting it sit upon your tongue, savor it and enhance your next sentence or what you are hearing. it incorporates all of the senses and i like that about it as well.
the response last night was lovely to the food and i appreciate that, to be sure. i want to cook well so that when my friends or family taste the food it makes them feel loved, makes them feel good, so it definitely matters to me to have people enjoy my food, but that's not why i do it, so that they'll tell me how cool i am. what made the evening so great was being able to present something i felt underscored how important the occasion was simply by my desire to pull out the stops for the spread. because this is a momentous occasion in our nation's history and in my own doubts about my desire to remain in this country.
when our president was announced on tuesday night, my sons and i were ecstatic. but it wasn't until later, when i was sitting alone, that the tears came, because i realized i could feel belief in my heart again. that my love of country was something very true and real, because i didn't know, until that moment, that if the other candidate had won, i would have sold everything, packed up the kids, the pets and some cookbooks and moved to another country without a second thought. i understood then that all my talking about it wasn't just that. i meant it with all my heart.
but now i'm not. now, i am completely ready to see where life takes us and, right now, life's a bit hard for us, like so many others. but i see a light at the end of the tunnel that i feel will overtake all things in my life. and that's why i created the menu i did for the friends who matter so much in my life. here's the menu for us to check out just for giggles (but no recipes this time, sorry... those are secret and mine -- i know, what a bitch, right? get over it):
olive tapenade w/crostini
hummus w/pita chips
spicy marinated olives and caper berries
sweet and spicy cumin almonds
fresh and dried fruit basket with assorted cheeses
hot and gooey brie w/warm bread and assorted crackers
guacamole w/tortilla chips
onion dip w/kettle potato chips
marinated roasted veggies
minced tofu in won ton cups
minced chicken in won ton cups
vegetable summer rolls w/ponzu dipping sauce
shrimp summer rolls w/sweet spicy dipping sauce
bul goki bundles on warm rice cakes w/scallion dipping sauce
giant chocolate chip cookies
orange ginger oatmeal cookies
mixed berry trifle
mojitos, wine, beer, water
assortment, as they say, is the spice of life. it was fun and i can't wait to do it again. but, even more than that, this feeling inside is amazing.
last year, my younger son came up to me and told me he wanted to be the first black president of the united states. i told him then that this guy who was putting his campaign together, obama, might beat him there. he stopped, thought, then said, "well, then i'll be the first MIXED RACE president in the united states." i pointed out that obama was already mixed race. he thought another second then said, "well, i guess i better find out what he's all about." he was 10 at the time. now he's 12 and it was him and my other son who were downstairs while i was up in the kitchen cooking calling out the election results for me. it was all they watched tuesday night and when i cracked open some rather delicious spanish sparkling wine to celebrate the victory, they both cheered with me.
as for me, to quote the exquisitely haunting and subtly passionate nina simone:
it's a new dawn
it's a new day
it's a new life for me
and i'm feelin' good...
maybe that should be the anthem for the president elect's victory of 2008?