In the yard
Yesterday I prepared dinner in the yard with friends. I have a long wooden table that was once our kitchen table, which I keep in the barn. I bought it thirty years ago from an old general store. We hauled it onto the stones outside my door.
I wrapped forks and knives in pretty yellow floral paper napkins and put them in an old wooden carrier with the salt and pepper. I laid out enough chairs using the patio furniture and a little set of black stackables that I have. I did all that in the morning. It was a sunny day.
I put out some jarred candles and two jars of the wild phlox from my yard. I also put a big bouquet of lupins on the side table. I have a blue ceramic water jug that looks like it came from Portugal. I actually bought it at the local drugstore down the road. I filled it with ice and water.
Then I brought out my portable speaker and turned on Edith Piaf so when people came they would get the vibe, you know. It was a simple part and took about one hour for me to prepare. In fact, I got home from work at five and actually rested and watched tv until 6:30. Then, I picked the flowers and put on a long peasant dress. You gotta look the part.
I have to say though, one of the highlights of the evening was when my husband came down in a light sportscoat, white t-shirt, straw hat and stood by the grapevine pruning it a little. He was also dressing the part. We all ooed and awed. Then we all laughed because right before he ate, he went and put on his old black hoodie because he knew he'd get food on his good white clothes. He was welcomed back to the table.
All the guests, old friends, were assigned to bring something. We had Quinoa Salad with Haloumi, Pasta Salad with spinach, and a big green salad with feta and green olives. There was also homemade biscuits and pan fried shrimp. We finished off with a layered rhubarb custard torte that had meringue on the top. The food was delicious and simple, and the company was easy and cozy. And in the middle of dinner one of the guests said, "Who needs the old country?" We could have been anywhere.
And all this happened because I write these letters. A few years ago I had written a letter about finding the good life in your own yard. When I am at my best, I really believe we have to find the good in what we have. Sometimes, when I am at my worst I think it has to be found in a big kitchen renovation. In that letter I was talking about contentment and sort of bemoaning the fact that many of us never get to set at the long table outside a French villa and eat dinner. It's true, only a few of us get to experience that.
A reader wrote me back and said, "Deanne, you need to put a table in your own yard and eat that dinner." I heard her and I liked her note. It's reinforced what I was saying, "contentment can be found on your own front stoop." Since then I have had two gorgeous dinners in my yard. One was completely impromptu. Last nights was planned and wished for by a few friends when they were last at my house.
They were both simple and easy, and we were making the best of what we had. And we were lucky enough to be able to do that. Good health, good food, good friends, and good love, for each other and for what we have been given.
- Deanne Fitzpatrick