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After Work: Throwing A Party

…I admire people who can entertain graciously, seemingly without effort. I am not one of those people. I relish the descriptions of fetes, soirees, intimate dinner parties and little luncheons on the terrace, but no way do I ever expect to be that kind of hostess…

Invitations were e-mailed to 21 guests – but Dona Gibbs slept poorly after they had been sent out.

So was the party a success? Do read on…

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night, Dick Diver says, “I want to give a really BAD party. I mean it. I want to give a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette. You wait and see.”

That’s what I aspired to when I set about throwing a dinner party recently. It would be a colorful evening. On the plates would be delicious, tempting food. Calories be damned. Around the table witty repartee would abound. Wine would flow.

The evening would unfold like a play. And if there were a seduction or a brawl, it would be entertaining, especially since the invitees’ ages were north of sixty. When the curtain would descend, the guests would collect themselves still chatting (or seething) as they lingered at the door.

I admire people who can entertain graciously, seemingly without effort. I am not one of those people. I relish the descriptions of fetes, soirees, intimate dinner parties and little luncheons on the terrace, but no way do I ever expect to be that kind of hostess.

One of our best friends asks large numbers of people for dinner often. Her parties even include favors. The latest one had a circus theme and she sent us home with Cracker Jacks, peanuts and cotton candy as favors.

Another friend invites us to have cocktails in her kitchen while she puts on the finishing touches. No way do I want anyone to see me having a culinary panic attack.

The time was due, way past due, for me to hike up my mental britches and throw a dinner. Ever-enthusiastic Husband toted up the number of invitations we had gleefully accepted in the past. Our prospective list of people we obliged to invite numbered twenty-one.

Oh my goodness!

Tacky though it may be, I sent out email invitations where people could respond yes, no or maybe. They even included directions to our house.

For people who rarely venture over the bridge off Palm Beach Island, this was a must. We live in a golf community that has a main road that meanders around the property. A while back we invited a couple over. They circled several times.

They pulled over to shout “Idiot” at each other and arrived at our front door annoyed. The evening was down hill from there; especially after the man huffed that he’d never drive that far west again. Anyway it was time to put such negative thoughts behind.

I hesitated over the email draft for few moments. Then I pressed, “Send”.

It zoomed off with a little whooshing sound. A knot tightened in my abdominal region.

Oh, what had I done?

Lillian Hellman, I read somewhere, worked herself into a state planning and cooking for the numerous dinner parties she gave. They were lavish events, but by the time her guests arrived, her attitude was, “Who the hell are these people?”

I understand how she felt but I was determined that I would plan, clean and cook while laughing and chirruping.

Three winsome soup tureens sat on my counter. I had bought them because I liked their varied shapes. It was time they were put to work.

“Soup, “ I cried. “I’ll make three different kinds of soup, a huge salad and with some crusty French bread and a big cake that’ll be a perfect casual dinner.

For three days I poured over soup recipes. I settled on corn and clam chowder, lentil and andouille sausage and mushroom and leek. Then reality set in or maybe it was pretense.

Three soups sounded kind of meager.

“Did the Gibbs take a bad beating in the market,” I imagined our guests musing.

“Did those soups come out of a can?” others might mutter.

That’s what comes of having an over-active imagination. “People are delighted to be guests, “ Ever-enthusiastic Husband reminded me.

In spite of his comments, supper made up only of soups was altered. Now it would include a huge ham. And that called for side dishes. I would present chicken fettuccini as an alternate to the ham. It would all be served buffet style.

A phone call to the party rental people would bring extra tables and chairs to our doorstep.

The nights before the event I slept poorly. In my dreams I cooked and cooked and cooked. I awakened each morning tired and I expected to see soup splatters on my pajamas.

People arrived. They circled the dips and crackers. They nibbled. Champagne was poured. Chatter was spontaneous. No introductions were needed. The party was getting to be party.

Finally soup was on. And the ham. And the side dishes. And backup fettuccini.

There were no fisticuffs, no sobbing and not even mild flirting.

There was eating. Wine was drunk.

It wasn’t food to be discussed course by course. It wasn’t wine to be remarked upon. Still everybody seemed to be happy. Even me.

It wasn’t up to Dick Diver’s party standards. Not at all

One guest did forget her purse. And I flatter myself that was the sign of a very good party.


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