Sunday, December 20, 2009
Sharing the Joy.
If you give a party in this town, everyone will come. Literally. Unabashedly. Enthusiastically. Especially if you cook real food. Meaning: not 1940's recession rations, canned goods doctored with Campbell Soup and Heinz Ketchup. If you buy your products from local ranchers, you will be assured quality and goodwill in the bargain.
If you charge nothing for your fuss, you will become an instant hero.
This town has two types of people: those who have lived here for the last one hundred years or so, and everybody else. For decades, Oregon had a saying: come and visit, but go back home. Real Estate agents, and chamber of commerce secretaries would make it clear to you that if you came from California or anyplace else, you were not welcome. When we first moved here, my husband introduced himself first as born in Portland. They forgave him for having left and married out of his kind.
So, newcomers have to be patient; they have to make themselves useful; they have to throw parties and cater to the local taste buds. Our first party, for the immediate neighbors, a summer bbq, became our baptism into the town's politics. Feed people, and they talk. Pass the wine, and they'll reveal where the gold is buried. With the baby-backs and chickens raised up the river, and wine from the bigger valley, and everyone knowing everyone, the party was a huge success. People took home the leftovers and stopped by the following weeks to share some tidbit or other.
Granted, with one or two coffee shops in town serving mostly burgers and fish and chips, feeding people here is easy. Anything that simmers on the stove for a few hours, or has to marinate overnight gets rave reviews. If it has a foreign name, it becomes mythological.
Besides, many old people don't bother with daily cooking. A stew or a soup will last them a week. Meals-on-wheels is the highlight of their day. Conserving energy is their mantra.
Both my husband and I work/volunteer. He runs the local food bank; and I run the local school board. When we throw a party for one or the other, we have to account for taste differences. When we invite neighbors, there is still a third group.
Regardless, nobody turns down an invitation.
For our neighbors, most of whom live far from their relatives, we're having a Christmas Day Open House. We'll prepare a buffet to bring back memories of their past. We'll have the usual, roast beef, ham and all the fixings. I'll add some pasta and pizza, all home-made and from scratch. Desserts will represent my roots and my husband's, Italy and Sweden. Pies, strudels, panettone, and biscotti will line up together. We'll toast with Sangria, mulled wine, Pellegrino, tea and coffee.
In the sunroom, the Presepio will dominate the scene, the houses all lit, the manger a step away from platters of antipasto.
Food may dominate this scene, but the road signs are everywhere. Christian iconography in a new setting.
Good Will will unite us, and beautiful music will cheer us. (I'm counting on the beautiful voice of my daughter and her talented musician husband to get us into the lovely mood, the sharing of joy!)
May you feel loved and nourished on this day.