Thursday, April 29, 2010

Putting on the Ritz

Sharing a meal brings friends together. Making a meal together with friends cements those bonds. For months, a group of my friends has been planning a foodie event. Our host planned a menu based largely on recipes from Fine Cooking magazine, and we shared responsibility for gathering ingredients. On Saturday morning, we loaded up the car and drove to New Jersey to prepare the feast. Annette, our host, provided a beautiful venue, including her dining room set with an antique linen tablecloth and sterling, and shopped for fish and chicken and vegetables. Judy visited the Devon Farmers Market for fresh berries, cantaloupe, kiwis, and cheeses. Paola provided the wine. I brought along chocolates from Eclat and ingredients to make fresh pasta and sauce. We were set.
Together we chopped, sliced and diced; we sauteed, braised and roasted. We rolled pasta dough. We laughed and we learned. We paired appetizer cheeses, bread, and crackers with Italian bubbly (don't call it champagne!) as we waited for the guys to return from a hike. We moved to the dining room for the arugala, shaved baby artichoke and parmesan cheese salad tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. We twirled pasta fresca in tomato sauce without getting stains on the linens. We feasted on fresh trout stuffed with herbs and lemons, chicken with mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and caramelized onions, asparagus drizzled with truffle oil, and roasted fingerling potatoes. We ended with fresh berries, more cheese, and chocolates.
Dinners like this were a staple in my parents' house. Almost every month they hosted a dozen friends who dressed in tuxes and formal dresses. My mother spent the week before polishing silver, ironing tablecloths and napkin, rinsing the crystal, shopping, cooking, and baking. My grandmother and I helped her prepare and assisted in the clean up. I remember watching the adults sit at the table, the candlelight reflected in the crystal and silver. I listened to them talk about politics and religion. I saw the faces flush with excitement and with wine. I envied their glamour.
This dinner party echoed that glamour in all the important ways. Annette pulled out all the stops, and the conversation rose to the occasion. I felt adult in a way that it is impossible to do when sitting in the kitchen with the everyday dishes and tableware.
My generation is different from my parents'. I used to wonder why we didn't use the good stuff everyday, but I seldom use my grandmother's china or the good silver even when we have company. After this weekend, though, I'm looking at the china cabinet with a new glint in my eye. The next time we get together with friends, we'll have dinner in our dining room with the crystal and the china and the silver, and we'll behave like the grownups that we are. Finally.

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