Monday, August 30, 2010

On Throwing a Dinner Party

"What will happen at this party? Anything may happen. A man has just come in who stands charmingly on his head at parties. Perhaps he will stand on his head tonight. I hope that he will stand on his head. That is what people should do at parties of pleasure; it gives parties of pleasure the right note." - Rose Macaulay

Sadly, no one stood on their head at this dinner party. (I watched Patrick very hopefully.) And yet -

I think my desire to throw a dinner party must be linked to my predictable childhood preoccupation with tea parties. But once I saw Babette's Feast (and also Chocolat) I found the urge to feed dear friends at a table with good food, prepared with patience and intention. And Thursday was the perfect day to do it.

I stayed indoors all day, chopping and mixing, slicing, arranging, and setting everything in place. The menu was supposed to be light and vibrant summer food, to mirror the weather. But the day was morbid and grey. We had to create the atmosphere ourselves, with flowers and with wine.

The menu was as follows:

Act I:

Rosemary & sage bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil
Olive tapenade
Artichoke & spinach dip
Truffle cheese with raspberries & blueberries (finally, a chance to indulge my truffle mania)

Act II:

Lemon Mint Israeli Couscous
Shittake mushrooms & asparagus with honey

Act III:

Strawberry ice-cream with Balsamic vinegar (entirely inspired by Molly Moon's)
Various fruits with melted dark chocolate

Various wines, coffee, etc.

And all went as planned. There was the best cheese story I've ever heard, a long discussion on belly-buttons (which is, you know, one of my specialty subjects), and warm conversation which smeared into a general celebration of high-spirits.

As I'm writing this as a faux foodie, let me quote the regnant M.F.K. Fisher: "Too few of us, perhaps, feel that the breaking of the bread, the sharing of salt, the common dipping into one bowl, means more than satisfaction of a need."

(P performing brain surgery on a cantaloupe)

(Those dear newlyweds: kind enough to let us into their new apartment and let me break a bowl, spill a wine glass and drop balsamic vinegar all over the tablecloth I bought them as a wedding present.)

(A future lawyer and future Icelander in the party spirit)

(Birthday friends, now 24 and 25 respectively. L and I met the day after our birthday in our freshman year of college, and we're still celebrating it.)

A divine night, wholly scented with lavender. And so (Fisher again):

"Then, with good friends...and good food on the board, and good wine in the pitcher, we may well ask, When shall we live if not now?"

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