In Praise of Festivity

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Outside of the daily grind, my mother was one of the best cooks and hostesses imaginable – inventive, confident, festive, stylish in presentation but placing the taste of the food and the experience of eating above all. It became clear to me the further I got from childhood: SueG was genius at turning it on for company, and in entertaining, as in all things, she had theories and operating principles.

Her menus were streamlined, following the classic 1950s configuration of one appetizer followed by an entrée with one starchy side dish, a green vegetable or salad, possibly another vegetable and, finally, one dessert. There would be no plethora of condiments.

SueG prized festivity above all. If a special occasion were afoot, all of the normal rules were immediately suspended. Virtually anything could be excused via the festivity clause. Overeating, overdrinking and overspending were possible. In latter years, going to an absurdly overpriced restaurant was possible. Flirting was possible. Dressing up was possible. Misbehavior of various sorts was possible. Games were possible. Failing to put children to bed was possible. Staying up till 4 was possible. Leaving the kitchen a mess and going to sleep were possible. Sleeping in the next morning, more than possible, was inevitable.

Drinking and driving, I am happy to say, was not possible, thanks to her tee-total husband.

Special occasions could range from a dinner party (she was utterly unafraid of entertaining a group of any size and always did it well) to an impromptu visit to a holiday to a celebration of someone’s good news and later, to a gathering with grown children and their families. She was always on the lookout for festivity lurking in the boring confines of the quotidian. I have this trait in spades and feel very restless, as she did, at the prospect of a calendar without anything fun upcoming.

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