An amazing thing happened at our house yesterday. This is the third time it’s occurred, over the past six years, and it’s gotten better each time. Practice makes perfect, they say, and I can’t help but agree.
The simple explanation of this tradition is that a group of us get together to make sausage and smoked meats. Yesterday that meant that we made merguez, boudin blanc, roasted poblano sausage, bread and cheese sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon, tasso ham, duck ham, smoked chicken, and pastrami. Everyone made 10-15 pounds of their chosen meat, enough to send home a nice portion with each person, so that now we all have fridges and freezers stuffed with homemade charcuterie. And of course there were myriad nibble foods consumed during the all-day cooking extravaganza, and salads and desserts with dinner, and countless bottles of wine consumed, but for once I didn’t take any pictures of all that. Because, if you can believe this, for me it really wasn’t about the food.
Yesterday, it was all about the people. Our friends, knowing that we’re facing hard times, gathered around us in a warm embrace.
They cooked and cleaned like pros all day long, washing mountains of dishes,
even getting down on hands and knees to wipe up the inevitable spills caused by having 8-10 people in our small kitchen at any one time.
They kept our glasses full and our hearts fuller, letting us bask in the warmth of their friendship as we sun-worshipped like the summer-starved Northerners we all are.
They supervised three smokers running all at once, a task that requires a lot of multi-tasking as well as a certain amount of beer consumption,
without setting the forest or the deck on fire, and while getting each meat done to perfection.
They were brave enough to get in the hot tub in just underwear if they’d forgotten their suits
and showed overwhelming generosity in making sure that everyone had whatever would make them happy.
Some made their deservedly famous and always appreciated signature dishes
and some leapt bravely into foods none of us had ever tasted or imagined, which is saying quite a lot, with this bunch.
They kept it light, everyone seeming to know that in difficult times good spirits are the best medicine,
and that laughter among old friends can chase away the darkest of thoughts.
They did all the heavy lifting, so that Shel had nothing to do but be a guest at his own party
and they were always ready with a hug and a comforting word.
How could you not love a group of folks that do all that and clean up after themselves too? Although they may not look it, they’re a wild and crazy bunch, people who are expert at having a good time, people who love to cook and eat and drink and party.
But yesterday I saw something new in these old friends. They way they pitched in, worked hard, made the party happen, carried chairs and tables and then set them for dinner, brought eight different kinds of rosé for one of the first warm summer days, scolded each other about wearing sunscreen, set up a meat slicing and bagging station to share out all the great food we’d created, tidied everything up at the end of the evening, washed and washed and washed some more dishes, and left us with a full fridge and not a bit of mess.
And in between all that there was always someone with Shel, talking and laughing, telling stories, just being there for him. For us. How could you not love people like that? I don’t even try. I surrender. I totally love you guys, and I thank you for a beautiful day.