Of Poems & Potlucks

I’m really excited. Friends of mine from graduate school are in town for a visit, and I get to make them dinner tomorrow night. And not only do I get to make them dinner, I get to make them a birthday dinner. More particularly, I get to make dinner for Jess and Chris–two of the best cooks I know.

(I’m only a little bit nervous.)

I’m thinking back to when we were all here together, enduring workshops and going to readings and making our way through apprenticeships in poetry (Chris & me) and fiction (Jess). The best memories of that time for me, though, were of cooking and eating together. I remember the Thanksgiving dinner in Chris’ impeccably-appointed basement apartment when he deep-fried a whole turkey. Remember that craze? I was skeptical, I admit, but that was easily the best turkey I have ever had. And we didn’t set the place on fire, either! There were countless grilled meals and potlucks to which we all brought something delicious. I was lucky to be surrounded back then by people who loved food as much as I did/do. I remember Jess’ pies and the way sugar, flour and eggs were transformed deliciously under her loving care. I am no baker and live in complete awe of anyone who can make: homemade pie crust, rustic fruit tarts, chocolate soufflees, and anything that requires puff pastry or phyllo dough.

I often hosted brunch for all of us in my small downtown apartment. Egg & cheese stratas, homemade scones, bagels and lox, and, once, these crazy-delicious sausage & cheddar biscuit things that Chris brought that I could not stop eating. (I have a serious sausage problem.) Late morning light through my screen porch, Ella Fitzgerald on the stereo, amazing food and wonderful friends who helped me become the writer and the person I am today. Danielle, Jenn, Kim, Carla, Jeff, Tammy, Joel, Liz, Dave, Adam, Jo-Ann, Aimee, Jess & Chris…feeling super tender toward y’all right now. (Appropriation of regional colloquialism in your honor, Chris!)

I haven’t hosted many big soirees in recent years, and when Chris contacted me to say that they’d be in town, my immediate reply was, “Fantastic! We’ll have an easy dinner–burgers on the grill and beer or something.” And that would have been fine, I am sure. These are not people for whom I need to fancy things up.

But they are people I care about and who I have missed a great deal. It’s been at least six years since I’ve seen them, and probably more than that. I have two kids and they have one–a beautiful boy who I’ve only seen in pictures. This is a special occasion if ever there was one.

So I’m not going to grill. And I’m not going to Serious Eats or Epicurious or to any number of wonderful food blogs to get inspiration like I often do . No, these are my writer friends, so for them I am breaking out the books. Or, more particularly, this book:

Though I am not telling yet what I’m making. Birthday presents should be a surprise, after all!

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