The three round tables we rented for the occasion, were set in orange tablecloths and yellow flowers and a spray of candy corn for sweet measure. The buffet table had a horn-of-plenty offering a variety of rolls and mini pumpkins, and there were turkey shaped tealights. And then it was four o'clock, two out of three of my kiddles were dressed in appropriate attire. After a few last minute switcheroo's I settled on a sparkly hostess ensemble that was hopefully festive and elegant but was definitely comfortable. Hub was sporting oven mitts, as he was experimenting with his brand new smoker out in the back.
And then the guests started to arrive. And I had to readjust and execute the next phase of operations. The people aspect, the personality intergration, the real world part of cooking and entertaining. When left to formulate and grow in your head and imagination a big holiday meal or party is as great as you want it to be. The scene from your head can be played out in the coordinating plates, cutlery, napkins, potted plants and of course, candy. It serve as a lovely backdrop where everyone happily sips apple cider, and are pleasantly catching up or getting to know each other. The kids gladly wear the paper bonnets and pilgrim hats (complete with gold sticker button) that were purchased for the occasion. People are brimming with thankfulness and cordiality.
Real life: The guest who needs a diet coke while you are spinning around in the kitchen ("Umm yeah, it's not on the side board?...Hmmm, ouch! burnt myself. "Hub!!! Can you get the diet cokes from the fridge downstairs?") the kid who insists on wearing his ratty Manning football jersey, the cranky family member who just can't help but grouse, the kufte kebabs that are running behind schedule, the mini knishes that need more work. The headache hiding in the back of the head. The chronic latecomers, who throw kitchen timing into disarray.
These gatherings do have a few sweet and perfect little vignettes in time.
There was the Mmmms and the yummms. There was the oldworld older couple who couldn't get enough of the tofu. And the grilled wings that were devoured by the bored teenagers. And the pumpkin walnut bread that was the sleeper hit of the meal. The ribs were gone in a few, along with the kebabs. And the sausage stuffing that continues to please. And then there are parts you have to look for: the table of old-timers happily chatting and catching up, the New York newlywed couple discussing with neighbors the virtues and drawbacks of abandoning City life for a semi-country pace. There was my toast that I kind of flubbed on, but was still OK. And then there are the leftovers.... and the idea that I don't have to cook at all this weekend.
By the time dessert time rolled in, I was beyond preconceived notions and expectations, I was sipping a glass of red and let someone else locate the extra forks and pie slicers. The pumpkin pie was surprisingly my favorite dessert of the feast. However, as we had a few chococrazies at our gathering it was unsurprisingly that the chocolate pecan pie made with a bar of chopped 70% Scharffen Berger garnered the most support and appreciation.
But now, what I am feeling most thankful and warmly about are the leftovers.... and the delcious fact that I don't have to cook at all this weekend.