Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
David and I hosted our annual dessert party this past Saturday night. It is a tradition we have maintained for twenty years, one that involves a frenzy of baking (Katya) and cleaning (David) and a night when our house is full of treats and people. The mix of folks who attend changes each year to reflect the different stages in our lives but there is always a core group of regulars as well as new faces every year. It is our one big blowout when neighbors, colleagues, friends, teachers, people we’ve known for years and people we may have just met (okay, that one is almost always a Katya invite) mingle and get their sweet tooth on. I so enjoy catching little snippets of conversation as I try to greet everyone on my way to replenish supplies of whipped cream for the hot chocolate or find another serving spoon to replace the one that has mysteriously disappeared from the mixed berry cobbler. I get to catch up with folks I haven’t seen or introduce people who need to meet or just hang back and watch it all unfold. As someone who loves to entertain and socialize and uses baking as a love language, the night is always one of my favorites of the year.
I try to vary the desserts each year, but there are a few constants. There is always some sort of trifle (this year it was banana pudding) and something that was deceptively easy but a big hit (skillet chocolate peanut butter smores) and something that was labor-intensive and not worth the effort (caramel apples) and some surprise hits (the chocolate-covered caramels that I made with the leftover caramel from the apples). There is also hard work that is rewarded (homemade apple cider was very popular and the consensus was that there was a depth of flavor not found in commercially produced cider) and some redos that were worth it (my second batch of macarons was much better than my first). And there is always the admonishment from David that I have made too many desserts followed by the gratitude of departing guests eagerly filling to go containers with the leftovers.
The last few years have also included overnight guests who travel in for the party so that the fun continues on Sunday with a brunch for all of the folks who are here from out of town. (It turns out that the lure of desserts is a great way to get folks to come visit!) And there is also something enjoyable about putting everything away and getting the house back in order. David and I collapsed last night, physically exhausted but very content. Entertaining on this scale (we had over 70 people come to the party this year and have had as many as 100 in years past) requires teamwork, and the party is a great way to see how well we have learned to work together. We have a system that works so well we were able to sneak out for breakfast on Saturday morning and enjoy pizza with our overnight guests Saturday night before the party. But I also noticed that we both felt the fatigue and soreness more acutely this year. Concessions to aging may need to be made over the years (perhaps I won’t make homemade marshmallows for the hot chocolate or homemade graham crackers for the smores) but rest assured the party is here to stay. It is, after all, a great reflection of life in general and how full our lives are, both literally and figuratively