Prep Rewarded – and Quinoa Salad

It worked – the party planning – but pre-party nerves must be part of the prep. The day-of I fretted my food choices, quantities, and tried to think through the whole meal’s tableware needs. But by evening the long table looked festive – crowded but convivial. Votive candles and taller mismatched candlesticks took over as the sun set, and we told our stories of coming to this part of the world.

We drew numbers for speaking order from a sack offered by the wordsmith’s grandson. First to go, the husband half of an excellent gardener pair (they tend a magical garden and pond), introduced the repeated theme of the night – community – illustrated by details of kindness and friendliness and tolerance in this small town.

Others spoke of the natural world – a love of the mountains in the Northwest, the beauty of a waterside approach to Port Townsend in lifting fog. The wordsmith’s husband said he liked it because you could start walking from any place, in any direction, and in 45 minutes be “waist deep in the Pacific.” Everyone chose to live here – people reside here on purpose.

And the food! In a thank-you note a guest wrote: “Dinner was wonderful – every dish unique yet it all went together in a most delicious way.” The table full of gorgeous summer dishes: sweet and sour kale brought ready to cook down and serve. Beet pesto and seedy bread, tiny stuffed zucchini, an amazing quinoa (my old friend mitigated my “enough food?” jitters with abundant, delicious offerings). The coleslaw, deviled eggs, and tofu quickly disappeared.

The birthday cake capped the meal – giant, luscious, two layers piled high with whipped cream and berries and candles). Lively “local conversations” took over – that happy hum a host likes to hear.

The next day my old friend forwarded a link to “Quinoa, Garbanzo, and Spinach Salad with Smoked Paprika Dressing” (, but I prefer her narrative, which seems in keeping with recipes here: “Never able to follow a recipe. I used a green pepper instead of a cucumber, I didn’t have feta, so made little cubes of my favorite Dubliner cheese, didn’t have a sherry vinegar so used a mix of rice wine and white wine vinegars and, of course, the proportions called for weren’t the same – I think mine had more quinoa and more garbanzos for the spinach.”

Like everything, it was great!

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