Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Entertaining Trifecta

Thankfully, our weekend of back-to-back dinner parties, although exhausting, helped me feel reinvigorated about this crazy quest of mine. We didn't plan on entertaining non-stop, but simply forgot that Steve's sister Betsy, her husband Ladd and their 11-year-old daughter Elle, were coming to New York from Maine on Friday to stay with us for the night and we had already arranged to have our dear friends Stuart and Liz to dinner. It had taken no fewer than seven emails and three cancellations to make the dinner-date and there was no way we could reschedule. Then, to make matters more hectic, our best friends, who had recently moved from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina, planned a last minute visit to the city, so we had no choice but to see them as well.

Betsy and family arrived Friday afternoon and we spent a few hours just laying around the house, catching up while we waited for Steve to get home from work. For dinner we ate family-style at our big table, kids and adults both. I made a huge batch of whole-wheat pasta with Portobello mushrooms and toasted hazelnuts and a mixed green salad tossed with super-fruity olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. The children ate plain pasta with broccoli and freshly grated parmesean. We finished the meal with cupcakes and brownies from Amy’s Breads. Lucky for us, our houseguests keep the same hours we do, so everyone was in bed and asleep by 9:00.

The next day, we said our goodbyes to Betsy, Ladd and Elle––and Steve and the boys went shopping in one direction, while I went in the other. From our butcher Pino, Steve bought six beautiful short ribs and from Grandaisy Bakery, chocolate tartlettes, barely sweet with a rustic density and a stirato baguette.

By the time I arrived around noon, Murray’s Cheese shop was packed with tourists and I could barely make my way through the store. I love living in New York City, but sometimes the hoards of people, both local and from out of town, can make me feel incredibly grumpy. I grabbed a Brie, some sliced salami and a Piave, paid, and then rolled my eyes at the people around me as I huffed out the door. At the overpriced quasi-ghetto grocery store next door I picked up a bag of mixed baby greens.

The menu ended up being:

Cheeses and Salami

Braised short ribs with gremolata of horseradish, parsley and lemon zest on top of pumpkin Orzo cribbed from Mario Batali


Chocolate Tartlettes

Stuart and Liz, our friends who, among other projects have co-written the book Typecasting: The Art and Science of Human Inequality and started the web site Rejected Letters to the Editor brought champagne, wine and cigarettes (Steve and I smoke very occasionally, but enjoy the rare cigarette.)

We had a fabulous time. We had them come over late, and had bathed and fed the kids first, so by the time we sat down to dinner, the children were already in bed dreaming about Thomas the Tank Engine. Over the next few hours, we ate—the short ribs were fantastic—and drank and gossiped about the academic who always wears a headband and dresses his model-perfect wife in crazy-miniskirts and Dick Hebdege, the cultural theorist who was stalked by Chris Kraus, who then documented the whole thing in her book I Love Dick. (The book, by the way, is one of the most intimate and revealing descriptions of women’s anger and I highly, highly recommend it for anyone who is the fan of memoir and/or feminist theory.) You can also listen to the This American Life story about how Chris Kraus's crush on Dick impacted her marriage here.

Although Stuart and Liz are decades older than Steve and I, as couples go, we get on remarkably well. We share a love of food and ideas––although our reference points are different. Stuart was Steve's mentor in graduate school and Liz gave him his first job at Suny Old Westbury, so they share an intellectual history. But all of them are more interested in being in the world of ideas than the reclusive world of academia, so I don't feel left out. The talk is easy and careens from pop culture to TV to wine to Lacan to the New York Times without pause.

At 11:30, we smoked our last cigarette and sent them off in the elevator, where they would fetch a cab on Housten street, headed back to their apartment on the upper west side. We went to sleep happy.

The next morning we lay low, watching TV with the kids while it poured rain outside, waiting for our tummies to settle from all the rich food and wine the night before. By 3:00, our house was once again full of people. Our friends from out of Charlotte —Perrin and Jim––came by with their two children, another family whose grandparents live upstairs from us stopped in and then Perrin’s sister called to see if she could drop by By 4:00, Steve was mixing a pitcher of Bloody Mary’s, the children were giggling and running about and it felt all warm and fuzzy. This is why I’m doing this, I thought, drinking my drink and watching Perrin breastfeed Levi as Clyde, Mason, Sydney and Sebastien started dancing to salsa music and Marcy announced she was pregnant again and the guys sat on the couch, engaged in deep conversation about what? Cars? Politics? I have no idea. But I felt full in the mix of people and chaos and friends and food and drink.

I thought of making pasta with a creamy vodka sauce, but was talked out of it by Perrin and Jim who insisted on order in Southern Indian food from Surya and paying for it.

We ate an early dinner and then Steve and I kicked everyone out––other families always understand. By 8:00 the house was empty, the dishes done, the kids asleep and Steve and I were curled up together with a Netflix DVD. Tired? Yes. But in a good way. Monday was hard, but it was worth it.

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