Friday, June 25, 2004

First Dinner Party…

And it looked like a potential disaster. One of our guests called to tell me that she is coming, but wouldn’t be her usual happy and festive self because her mum had just been diagnosed with a malignancy in her breast. Then my sister called and told me that our cousin Joann died at age 49 after being very ill with cancer.

I thought about calling it off, but I knew I could use some propping up and so could my friend. Seems to me that it is easy to be with friends during happy carefree days, but weathering storms together is what really builds strong relationships.

In Haddonfield, I entertained all the time. My house was always full of people eating, drinking, listening to music and talking about everything from local intrigue to politics. I loved the sort of salon atmosphere at my home and when I packed up, I could hear echoes of past dinners. It was hard for me to walk away from Potter Street. I had really made a life there and leaving, even for a wonderful relationship, was tough. Haddonfield is where I truly and totally came into my own as a person. I met many new people and forged new relationships as well as keeping and nurturing the old friendships and family ties that had sustained me as a single person for years. When I left there, I remembered the hundreds of meals we had all shared there, all the good times, deep conversations as well as low gossip sessions, hair cutting one crazy pizza night (another great thing – pizza night, usually a Friday, when we all let all week’s woes go), holidays, barbecues, famous tree trimming parties, all sorts of really wonderful and memorable times.

It was nice to cook for my friends, even nicer that two of my Haddonfield pals, Jenny and Paul, were among our guests. As I have said before, having them nearby is a real comfort. When I am homesick or just a little blue, I can get on the phone with Jenny and talk about South Jersey which inevitably leads to a laugh. They came, along with two other close friends making it just the six of us, and Henry. I had fun preparing the food. I made charmoula, which is a Moroccan paste to put on grilled chicken, fish, or pork. Not having a grill, I baked the chicken and got good results. Here’s how to make the charmoula:

¾ Cup fresh flat leaf parsley
¾ Cup fresh cilantro
2 t cumin powder
4 cloves garlic
1 t paprika
½ t cayenne pepper
3 T fresh lemon juice
6 T good olive oil
1 T tomato paste
salt to taste

Blend in food processor until smooth. Put in fridge overnight for maximum flavor blending. Put on top of meat, fish or poultry when it has about 10 minutes left to cook. Serve any leftover charmoula on the side. This recipe may be doubled. (Thank you, John Joyce, king of charmoula makers.) It really is quite yummy when served atop a bed of couscous. We also had zucchini, a nice arugula salad with my homemade vinaigrette dressing and a cherry clafouti. I think everyone was pleased with the food. Let’s put it this way, everything got demolished. Good sign.

Early in the evening it had been raining, and then the sun came out leaving a huge rainbow in the sky which was easily visible from our balcony. So beautiful, and just the silly little pick me up we all seemed to need.

It was a nice time, maybe a tad more subdued than is normal for us, but it was comforting to be together.


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