Into the Jaws of the Dinner Party.

Conversation glides through the rooms filled with Italian marble, open air, and full/half-full wine glasses. Tucked into the corner pantry pomegranate pavlovas wait take shape. First the airy meringue made well in advance, then the whipped cream, the carefully separated jewel toned seeds. Pam Sherwin knows how to prep for a party.

“Do you need help?” I ask.

Then she’s gone in a flash, heels tapping to the front door to greet the newest guests. Humming softly I set down my champagne glass, drop a few pomegranate seeds inside, step back from the party, and get down to work, one ear cocked.

Graham xmas tablesetting

“And here’s the daughter!” I hear. The hugs exchanged in the hallway are so enthusiastic they too are almost audible. One couple talks to another about their recent travels, a third comes in to the pantry/laundry room exploring, curious about what type of washing machines the Grahams decided on. A search for red wine makes itself heard through the kitchen, more is procured. I grin. When else is it acceptable at a party to just observe? You have to keep your hands busy with your eyes and ears open to stand a chance of taking it all in.

“You don’t work here you know,” Tookie scolds as I slide the silver platter onto the buffet table.

“But I’m better at working than I am at socializing,” I respond. She laughs, nods agreement.  “I know,” she says, “but you still don’t work here.” Pulling my hand she introduces me to a delightful and engaging stranger, makes sure my glass is full, and disappears into the crowd. It’s not really true that I’m better at working than socializing – well I am, but I’m not such a bad conversationalist as all that – it’s more that there is something about a roomful of people that makes me weak in the knees. And not in the romantic sort of way.

Supposedly others feel shy and awkward when presented with a roomful of strangers though, so I try not to dwell on my seeming social incompetence too much. It does so happen however, that I like making coffee and assembling pavlovas. If if happens to give me an escape from conversation (or the lack of) well…I don’t really have a defence for that one.

Although I will say that lots of the best conversations happen in the kitchen over a stack of dirty dishes or a cutting board. Even with strangers.


Thanks Ms. Graham for being endlessly lovely, (and for the Instagram photos I borrowed. I suppose I should have asked – is it okay if I use them?) And thanks too, to the endlessly lovely folks I meet at parties: I really do enjoy our conversations. And just think – they often happen in the kitchen don’t they?


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