Experiences are ALWAYS more fun when shared. It must have something to do with the camaraderie, the teamwork, the lightened load, and the shared memories. My newish friend Tara and I have been trying for some time to throw a backyard dinner party for a dozen or so friends; last night it went off without a hitch. Here’s how.
Tuesday 5 p.m.: Meet at library to peruse allrecipes.com website for menu selection and to print off recipes. We are pleasantly surprised at how readily we agree upon all the dishes. We create a shopping list for next morning and then challenge each other to do 100 sit-ups on the spot. Late in the evening I throw my sleeping bag on her living room rug so we can get a prompt start on Party Day.
Wednesday 7:20 a.m.: Off to City Market, shopping list in hand, stack of recipes for cross-checking. We are excited at our cart full of healthful goodness, and marvel that nearly everything we need happens to be on sale.
8:28 a.m. – The eight-pound pork shoulder roast goes into the crockpot for the Slow Cooker Texas Pulled Pork, after which we pile on layers of chopped onions, garlic, chili powder, mustard, BBQ sauce, cider vinegar and lots of love. Gotta add the love. Light banter fills the air as we talk about what we hope the end result looks, smells and tastes like.
9:44 a.m. — Lemon Blueberry Pies take shape as we squeeze and zest a bunch o’ lemons, cooking up the juice with eggs and sugar; Tara (age 27) gets to try her hand at pinching her first ever pie crust edge. Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes are next; we compare notes about our families of origin as we squeeze, stir, zest, pinch, mix and pour.
11:05 a.m. — We debate how much quinoa to cook for the tabbouleh. Amid peeling and chopping cucumbers, pulling parsley from the garden, cutting tomatoes, and burying our faces in the fresh mint we harvested downtown, our conversation drifts to religion and our spiritual journeys. Interesting parallels in our childhoods knit us together, while the divergent paths that we’ve taken give us pause to appreciate each other. Our experiences of Catholic guilt alone will provide much fodder for discussion/laughter throughout the day.
12:51 p.m. — Checking the spinach patch in the garden, we are relieved to see that at least six cups remain. The strawberry almond spinach salad is a go. One can understand how we manage to burn the sliced almonds we are trying to carmelize; we got distracted discussing matters of the heart, questions of love, dilemmas posed by close relationships. There is much support and understanding as we fill a big bowl with ingredients and verbalize that which for millennia has been universal girl talk.
2:00 — Lunch time! Big salad! We raise our water glasses to culinary sisterhood; it’s going much better together than it would have had we tackled it alone. We debate the manner in which our society has created a culture of female insecurity. Our concepts of femininity, our body worries, and our struggles of “good enough” vs. air-brushed perfection rise to the surface. It’s empowering to give voice to them.
3:20 p.m. — It’s hot outside and the oven’s been on for hours, so we are sweating. Did we buy enough buns? Should we go to the thrift store and look for a pie server? What bowls will fit the salads? Rats, forgot to buy feta cheese! How can we disguise the overflowed chocolate surprises that took on abstract art status? If we were doing this solo, we’d obsess about the aesthetics; as a duo, however, we reassure one another that they’ll still taste delicious. After all, it’s CHOCOLATE.
4: 33 p.m. — Time to shred the eight pounds of meat. I meticulously pick out the fatty bits so that only the finest part will be found on the buns. Sweet, wondrous pork tidbits find their way into our mouths. We confer about outfits, make-up, and toenail polish color. It’s what girls do.
Twenty-four woman-hours into this endeavor, we load our two vehicles with all the kitchen goodness that’s been assembled, and coast to the party house. Tara and I haven’t just cooked and baked; we have become friends. Guys who cook together may achieve equivalent gustatory results, but women who cook together — ?? We get the whole enchilada.