When I was in college, my parents and sister went away for an extended weekend without me. I don’t remember how long they were gone or where they went—it seemed like they never went anywhere. What I do remember is my ill attempt to throw a party while they were away. In my dreams I imagined hosting a large crowd like the ones in the “House Party” movies featuring hip-hop duo Kid ‘n Play. Instead I had what my friend Wendy calls a “Mary” party after iconic sitcom character Mary Tyler Moore and her sad efforts to host a social gathering.
I may have had two, maybe three people at my house one evening. Don’t recall what we did but I can tell you that no hilarious high-jinx ensued, nor much alcohol—if any—was consumed.
Flash-forward 30 years later and this time I am staying in my marital home while my ex is away on vacation with his new girlfriend. Since our daughter’s school is now around the corner from the house, it was easier for me to stay at the house instead of running her back and forth from my apartment. Unlike a few weeks before, when I stayed in my home the first weekend my son was home from spring break, there was no intense wave of sadness over my former home. Okay, there may have a been a moment or two of wistfulness, but nothing that made heart ache too much.
I made the most of my time at the house. I enjoyed cigars and wine from the balcony off the master bedroom suite. I built a fire in the fire pit, worthy of Burning Man, and smoked and drank some more in front of it. But those are activities that I enjoyed in peaceful solitude.
The kitchen and having the space to entertain is what I miss most about my home. So I decided to throw an updated house party and sent out some invites via email. Again, there was no drunken house party like in the movie “Bad Moms” (though in my fantasy, it would have been awesome).
Instead, I invited a few of my close friends to enjoy one last meal in my old home. What would have been a Mary party became an intimate gathering between me and my friends Wendy, Dan, Carolyn and Carolyn’s son Garrett—a favorite playmate of Ilsa’s.
I was challenged by what to make. On Saturday it was sunny and 80°F, feeling more like summer than spring. I couldn’t imagine preparing a heavy meal. But Sunday would be marked by a drop in temperature of almost 30°F. I settled on a Tyler Florence standing prime rib, a rich, elegant main course. An impressive cut of meat, that was simple in its execution, calling for an herb, olive oil and garlic paste, with root vegetables roasted in the drippings from roast. An eloquent dish to bid my kitchen and the bittersweet memories good bye.
I also roasted some cauliflower dressed simply in olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and minced garlic. It has become my favorite way to eat this vegetable, which I find so bland looking otherwise. Roasting it gives cauliflower a nice, hazel sheen.
Wendy confessed that she felt a wave of emotions come upon her as they pulled up to my street. So many memories of us cooking together in that kitchen. So many happy celebrations. Our domiciles—her rowhouse and condos, and the house on Broadmoor—were each other’s homes, places we found comfort and joy. And for both of us, the kitchen is where we truly are in our happy spot.
I love a good party and throwing one as well. In between my failed attempt at a high school bash and the quite dinner among old friends this past weekend, there have been many large gatherings of friends, family and acquaintances in my home over the years. But none are as memorable as the smaller get-togethers with close friends. Larger parties necessitate the services of a caterer. Less work for me, but not as gratifying an activity as you would think. But for a small group, I can prepare everything myself. Small gatherings offer me a chance to make meaningful connections with the people I love over food that I have lovingly prepared for them. At the end my evening with friends, I felt gratitude for having people in my life who understood my need to host a meal one last time. No raucous house party would have given me that kind of satisfaction.