This year, the soiree was a little different. Instead of meeting in Auntie’s West Virginia home, she rented a house in Virginia (close to me, yay!); plus, two nights instead of one, there was a mystery guest (one of my mother’s life-long friends), and I got to play Master Chef (her words, not mine).
For the food, I had free range.
Even though I didn’t go all out like Auntie does with her multiple courses and luxury meats (the theme, she said, was comfort food), the planning, cooking, and shopping still took a whole bunch of delicious hours, and by the end of the week the fridge was stuffed and my family was starving.
“Is that for us?” they’d ask, hungrily eyeing the cheesecake, the pans of French chocolate granola, the bagels, the plate of bacon, and when I’d answer — No, no, and no, and STOP SNITCHING — they’d sigh piteously and shuffle out of the room clutching their concave bellies.
(Once when they learned that a pan of hot buttery Parker House rolls I’d just made were for us and not the soiree, they scarfed them in mere minutes, probably because they were terrified I might change my mind.)
Friday night: salad and cheesecake
Saturday brunch: pancakes, bacon, eggs
Saturday early afternoon dessert: Mom’s cake
Sunday breakfast/brunch: bagel bar
I couldn’t get over the house’s professional Viking Range stovetop. (Also in the kitchen: two ovens and a warming oven that I never even touched, swoooooon.) It was insane: four large and wonderfully sensitive gas burners framing an enormous, perfectly evenly heated griddle. I stood there, flipping pancakes and warming bacon and sauteeing spinach and mushrooms and stirring cocoa, completely in my glory. Never before have I cooked on such a spectacular beast and now I am ruined.
After brunch on Saturday, we played Guess What’s In The High-Up Cupboards That No One Can Reach and the mystery guest, aged freaking SEVENTY, balanced on the edge of kitchen counter and played the role of investigator.
My mother brought a lemon cream cake for our Saturday coffee hour that she transformed into a birthday cake for the mystery guest (because she had a hunch who it might be).
Saturday night we went out for pizza and my girls joined us.
The house had a hot tub, of which we took full advantage. At first the water wasn’t hardly warm, so a couple of us compensated by first jumping in the swimming pool and then the hot tub — the pool’s icy water made the tepid tub tingly toasty.
Eventually the hot tub heated all the way up and we spent much of the afternoon, and then a few more hours that evening before bed, up to our necks in hot water, talking, talking, talking.
Sunday morning, Auntie gave us coconut wind chimes and people gave her wine and chocolate and a gorgeous linen jumper and a heart-shaped plant.
And then we packed up and went home. It was a lovely long luxurious weekend, thank you, Auntie!
P.S. My family, beyond thrilled to see that I’d returned bearing leftovers, immediately stuffed themselves with salad, pizza, and the last few slices of cheesecake.
This same time, years previous: curbing the technology addiction, the quotidian (10.22.18), another farm, another job, back in business, a dell-ish ordeal, field work, the reading week, breaking news, silly supper.