|A massive driftwood horse sculpture|
adorns the garden at Jan's lovely home
A few weeks ago Jan came to dinner at my house so we could collaborate on an Easter menu, much like her late husband, Robert, and I used to do over more than a decade of holiday dinner-party planning. As Jan and I supped on beef brisket and spring asparagus in my dining room, we chose as our Easter entrées a leg of lamb, which I would prepare, and a spiral-cut ham, on which Jan would put the finishing touches. An herbed bleu-cheese terrine with spiced walnuts from my repertoire sounded like an enticing hors d'oeuvre, accompanied by classic deviled eggs, which Jan would make. Fancy mashed potatoes would add a luscious starch, and we'd round out the main course with a colorful carrot salad dressed in lemon-turmeric vinaigrette.
I got busy composing a pretty menu for Jan, printing several copies out on stiff card stock, which I rolled and tied with curling ribbon and adorned with fabric blossom hair-clips as party favors for her guests. Meanwhile, Jan ordered adorable marzipan bunny faces with which we would make place cards for each table setting.
|Tiny marzipan bunnies added a fun|
note to placecards
Next I whirled bleu cheese, cream cheese and goat cheese in a food processor with melted butter until the smooth mixture had taken on a pale blue-green tint from the Roquefort. I patted some of the cheese into the bottom of a vintage jello mold lined with plastic wrap and topped it with a layer of fresh herbs (minced parsley and chives) from my garden, followed by a coating of toasted, chopped walnuts spiced with cumin, cardamon and sugar. I kept layering cheese, herbs and nuts until the miniature bundt pan was full, then folded plastic wrap over the top and put it in the fridge to set.
|The carrot salad was so colorful!|
|I snapped this photo early in the day -- |
before Murphy's Law began to wreak
havoc at Jan's party
|I filled the depression in the middle of|
the ring with daisies and mums
I turned out the terrine from its copper mold onto a platter lined with mustard greens and sprinkled herbs all around the cheese. In the middle of the ring I tucked spring-hued daisies and chrysanthemums provided by my favorite florist, Marty Giles. It made quite a beautiful display.
|This fun jumpsuit kept me cool|
and comfy all day
I cut branches from flowering plum, cherry, dogwood and redbud trees, arranging them in a giant vase for Jan, and then loaded up the car for the 20-minute drive to her home. Jan's dear friend, Irit, visiting from New York City, was busy pulling weeds and planting flowers when I arrived just before 2:00 p.m. Jan's brother, Robbie, would arrive at 4:00 with his wife, Ging and their children, Jimmy, 12, and Lookpat, 20. Jan's longtime friend and my former husband, Jesse, proceeded to uncork and decant rare, vintage wines chosen from Jan's wine cellar earlier in the week.
|The ham and the lamb were perfect,|
thankfully unaffected by the
"poltergeists" of the day
|Deviled eggs, stuffed olives and tiny|
pickled onions rounded out the
At 4:00 o'clock the lamb came out of the oven to rest for 45 minutes, while the potatoes and ham went into the warming drawer to heat up. That's when things began to go south. We couldn't understand why Jan's gigantic standard poodle, Toby, was licking his lips and looking for all the world like he'd found Nirvana. Now I saw the reason why: a third of the potatoes were missing from the ceramic dish we'd left sitting on the kitchen counter. We carefully cleaned out the contaminated portion and vowed to keep quiet about the canine incursion.
We proceeded to taste the decanted wine, now that it had been given a chance to breathe. It was a rare and valuable 1995 Chateau Monbousquet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru -- two bottles. Both had spoiled. They were undrinkable.
And Robby and Ging and the children were now late. Very late. We tried to reach Jan's brother by cellphone but he had not turned his phone on. We called his wife's cell phone but none of us speak Thai and, although she's been in the U.S. for twelve years, Ging's English is not good enough to understand over the phone. We had established that they were okay, but could not determine when they would arrive or even if they were still coming. Half of our dinner party was missing in action.
|Jan (in green) and Irit poured water|
for the dinner table
Finally, at 6:00 p.m., we grew tired of waiting for the others, so the four of us sat down to eat. We served up the ham and the lamb, passed the salad and the (carefully trimmed) mashed potatoes, gave a cheery toast and had just taken our first bites when Robby and his entourage arrived. Up once again from the table, we exchanged greetings and introductions (Irit had never met Jan's brother and his family) and then started to serve dinner to our newly seated guests.
|Jan proved she was|
every bit as good a host
as Robert had been
|Every guest got to take a copy|
of the menu home with them,
tied and secured with a
Murphy's Law dictates that "everything that can go wrong, will go wrong". That wasn't our experience, fortunately, for not everything went wrong, and the things that did go wrong were easily (and luckily) fixed. Perhaps Robert had been testing his widow's mettle from the great beyond. Maybe he was just having a little fun at our expense. Who's to say?
All I know is that Jan's first foray into entertaining since her husband's passing was a sweet success. We all had a merry time. And as we gently explained the history of Christianity and the meaning of Easter to the Buddhists at the table, I reflected upon what a wonderful world of inclusivity and acceptance I live in -- where even the most glaring oenophilic faux pas can be forgiven -- after another glass of wine.
“The chance of the bread falling with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.” ~ Murphy's Law