When asked for advice about giving a “demo,” my friend who paints in the woods (and teaches art) said: “excellent prep.” (That might be the key to a lot of life.) And while I am thinking about her words, as I get ready to make a presentation as part of a Bainbridge Arts and Crafts Gallery outreach program, I am often preparing for summer guests.
My sister-in-law is a great traveler and curious. She has never been here and her visit inspires a dinner party. I think she would enjoy learning about this place, so I’m melding together a couple of party strategies.
At first I pictured a manageable dinner party – six to fit comfortably at the big table. Because the guest list grew, we’ll make a long table from the six-foot dining table and the four-foot nook table, layer short but colorful tablecloths together, assemble motley plates and napkins and chairs, and many small jars of flowers. My plan is to go around the table and ask people to tell why they came here and what they like about it. “Somewhat directive,” but a chance for everyone to talk and compose a story of this place.
Friends make the food part easy. They’ve offered dishes, a mingling of tapas and potluck, to serve family style. So far I’ve heard guests will bring a special coleslaw, savory bread with onion topping, a grain of some sort, deviled eggs, tofu with peanut sauce. The as-yet unknown dishes – summer vegetables – will be fresh from gardens. I’ll put out simple starters – olives, nuts, and carrots – and revisit my Catalan foods – frittata and bean salad. This summer marks the fifth birthday of our house, so my clever friend will bake a celebratory cake, something with fresh fruit she says, for dessert.
Our first-ever visitor was a history professor from the University of Texas. At a large and ungainly dinner before we had much furniture or really lived here, we gathered around the two tables to share a potluck with our visitor and an assortment of recently met local people.
The professor made the evening memorable by suggesting we employ the “Austin Rule,” born of dinner parties in his college town – one conversation for the whole big table. It can lead to some great fun – especially if a topic is introduced.
So that’s my hope with this party – one table, one conversation, and lots of great food. Then I turn to prep for the demo.