I’m going to level with you.
After all my talk about summer fun and more play in the month of August, I’ve been dragging through this week like the walking dead. Last Saturday I hosted the pop-up dinner I’ve been telling you about. It was a huge pleasure to have such a diverse and interesting group of people gathered around my table. And this first big party felt like the perfect way to baptize our new house.
Kyle and I prepared a table for twenty in the back yard with white linens, dahlias from the farmers market and vintage silver and glassware I’ve been collecting for over a decade.
We served radishes with spicy tuna butter and salted watermelon cocktails to start. (We Seattleites are notoriously socially awkward, so I make a point of starting all my dinners with a little kick to get the conversation flowing!)
Then there was king salmon crudo with pickled blackberries and creme fraiche. Grilled zucchini with homemade ricotta, honey and toasted barley. Smoky lamb on a bed of tomatoes and grilled cucumbers with a killer walnut-herb sauce. And we finished the evening with an Eton mess featuring fragrant grilled peaches, peach sorbet and pistachio ice cream. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty proud of the meal.
But the best part came late in the evening, after dessert had been served and the coffee had been poured. I stood back and just watched our guests enjoying themselves. Their faces glowed in the candlelight as they talked and laughed. I floated around taking photos and catching bits of conversation as they drifted up into the summer sky.
And felt an immense sense of satisfaction.
Earlier in the evening my friend Sharon had explained how she feels out of balance if she goes too long without cooking. How returning to her kitchen and the meditative act of preparing food steadies her somehow. I told her it was the same for me.
But later I realized that wasn’t quite right. Cooking does restore me. My kitchen is a space to create and play and nourish myself. But I start to feel a little off-kilter if I go too long without cooking for others. When I worked in restaurants, this was a daily occurrence and I took it for granted. Now that I mainly cook at home, I feel a kind of compulsion to gather people around my table. The longer I resist it, the stronger it gets. Until I find myself planning elaborate Fourth of July barbecues and Moroccan-themed potlucks and five-course pop-up dinners.
That moment standing there watching the smiles pass over our guests' faces was worth all the planning and shopping and schlepping and prepping it took to make the dinner happen. It was worth spending last Sunday on the couch too tired to do anything more than watch Parade’s End and order takeout. It was it’s own kind of summer fun.
It may not have been as relaxing as swimming in Lake Washington, eating ice-cold slices of watermelon and working on my napping skills, but I don’t regret it for a minute.