Our celebration was not the standard American hot dog and hamburger grill-out, where the hosts do all the work and the guests simply arrive and eat. Instead, it was a time to gather with dear friends to spend time and cook together.
The menu was planned about three days before the gathering. It takes time to peruse recipes and make the final decisions on what dishes pair well together. I wanted the food for this get-together to not only have an American spirit, but also to embody non-traditional flavors. Also, my goal was to use only new recipes. I find that there is no better time to try new recipes than on dinner guests. It makes me feel like I’m living on the edge.
There was some work to do before the festivities could begin. We tried to make the preparations, as much as we could, a family affair. Little paws helped where they could, like grocery shopping and baking a cake. For the most part though, Randy and I split responsibilities and tackled them individually, but side by side.
By the time our friends arrived at 3:30 pm everything for the dinner was done; the pork shoulder was smoking and the drinks frozen. However, the beauty of this gathering was that there was no last minute rush because Patrizia and I were cooking a portion of the items on the menu.
The afternoon easily rolled into evening. There was more an air of leisure in the kitchen than an air of focused attention, because there was no set dinnertime. We started the evening with our brandy slushes and pisto manchego crostini. Once we finished cooking the Eggs Louisiana, the husbands and children came in and grabbed a bite. When the tomato salad and pesto was finished, everyone also nibbled on that. We would talk some and eat some and then move on to the next tasks. It made the evening fly by and it was delightful.
When it was time to eat the main course of smoked pork shoulder and grilled corn on the cob with pesto, the sun was setting and the temperature was dropping. We took our dinner outside, toasted with wine and ate while the children splashed in the kiddie pool. The night ended with strawberry refrigerator cake, homemade vanilla ice cream and cold sparkling wine.
As we walked our guests out to their car and waved goodbye, I felt the fullness that comes from gathering with loved ones. It didn’t matter that it was the fourth of July because this feeling is not limited to holidays. What mattered was that it was an evening spent together with friends, free from time constraints and full of conversation and food.
The memories created inside a house make it a home. The presence, conversation and laughter of others is a blessing that helps to make a happy home. May my house always be open to others and may my kitchen always be full. Open up your home to your friends, feed them and delight in the fullness that ensues.
some of the pictures showcased on this post was photographed by Patrizia Montanari; photographer, author and the brains behind [on the square] blog.