I realize that, in the grand scheme of the universe, one little party isn't huge, but it was to me. I've always admired the hostesses, while always being the guest. I'm a good one--easy to please and grateful. But I wanted to be able to pull off the gift to others that is the food, the hospitality, the company. Making it to hostess was my glass ceiling.
The roadblock between me and my desire that I owned was lack of confidence. I never felt capable of planning and executing the food, which I dearly wanted to be good at but feared I was not. After my years in culinary school, I'm over that. A lot of tasty success, if you're not the next wunderkind, can be had with research, strategy, and instruction following. Those, and a little trust in yourself.
One barrier wasn't my own personal limitation. Our previous house was only 1,000 square feet and chopped up into eight rooms. Not the ideal venue for a large group. Here at the barn, we have 1,500 square feet. That's not much more, but most of it is a very open main floor. We found out Friday that 40 people can be in here at one time and not suffer attacks of claustrophobia. This place just works. Perhaps that's why we were led here.
Three of my friends who were also invited guests offered help, but I insisted that I would do it all by myself. Not because I wanted to show off, but to validate and put to use my two and 3/4 years of culinary school training. This was exactly the kind of the thing I had studied and practiced to be able to do. I was ready.
I took it easy on myself, choosing simple dishes:
- Spiced nuts
- Cream cheese and pepper jellies
- Cheese wafers
- Salsa and tortilla chips
- Chocolate revel bars
- Coconut bars
All of the items were as easy to make as possible, because it's never as easy as you think it will be. (That last few minutes of go-Go-GO? Apparently unavoidable.) The spiced nuts and cheese wafer dough I was able to make ahead, eliminating some work the day of the party. The cream cheese/pepper jelly/cracker combo had only to be set out, and let me use the homemade pepper jelly that was a gift from one of the chefs at the restaurant where I interned. That left baking the bars as the only real cooking to be done--and the only tricky part: the coconut bars had to go back in the oven for more cooking so that they would hold together when cut. (Faithful instruction following must be tempered by your own sound judgment and present experience sometimes.) The salsa I threw in at the last minute to use up the seven tomatoes lying on my windowsill.
And of course the most heavily consumed and/or most praised foods were the easiest. The crowd ate the heck out of the cream cheese concoction, and two guests wanted the recipe for the salsa. Ain't life funny? I've never made salsa in my life. I used a recipe off the internet for ratios of the ingredients I wanted to use. It was a total throw-together, and they loved it and ate it all. Yard-fresh tomatoes probably helped there.
A few roses brought in from the yard graced the food and dining tables (about which I must share soon). It was high time I did that, too. I've always been a late bloomer.
I'm touched that we have so many good friends who will travel half an hour from their homes to warm ours with their caring presence, and I'm thrilled that we now have the means--and I the personhood--to share this unique and quirky little place with others. Which really means sharing myself--without shame and with joy.
At one moment during the party, when the house was full and noisy and happy, I felt as if I was just a little more who I've always wanted to be. It's just a party, but it's also part of the divine instruction for my life. What that means, I don't know. I go on what I do know: I loved every minute of planning, executing, and enjoying this party; and I am oh so eager to begin food events for small groups. Ideas are a-popping. (Apple dinner? Early fall doughnut fry maybe?) It's happening just as I always wished it would, at apparently the appropriate time.
Again I say that this wonderful (for me) news seems like no big deal in the big picture. But we never know how the little things we do affect or inspire others. My sweet host and hostess friends probably never knew how much their hospitality spoke to me or shaped me. I may never know how my "instructions" are meant to impact the lives of others. That part isn't in my hands. The important success is to follow the inner light and love, so that I will not be the dropped stitch that someone else needs in their life tapestry.
I'm grateful that it's time for me to be more me, but my real prayer is that my tiny flowering may bless others as I have been blessed.