Sara cooks party food and comfort food

[Originally posted on Trimmings, my now-abandoned Tumblr blog]

Last weekend I went to New Jersey to spend the weekend with my best friend from college, his husband, and their baby girl who just turned one year old. I’m not in the habit of frequenting toddler birthday parties, but there are several crucial differences with this family. One, the husbands don’t curtail adult beverages at these parties; College Friend’s sangria is legendary. Two, CF and I have co-hosted many parties together and it is a pleasure to be the kitchen minion for these extravaganzas. Three, I genuinely enjoy hanging out with their gregarious, affectionate daughter.

The menu for this party was extensive and I won’t trudge through all the detail. Suffice to say that the husbands had been cooking throughout the day on Friday, and we cooked a little more after I arrived at 9pm that night, and then we cooked a lot more Saturday morning. My role in this was mainly support. I chopped all the onions–I always chop all the onions, I can mince them very fine without tearing up thanks to contact lenses. I sliced apples and citrus for sangria. I picked parsley leaves and chopped them fine. Saturday morning I couldn’t even tell you what all I did, except that I sliced potatoes into wedges for roasting and stirred up a tangy yogurt dip, which is always my personal contribution to CF’s parties. The rest of the time, I floated comfortably through whatever tasks needed to be done, chitchatting with the husbands’ parents who were in town and putting up decorations, taking a break to play peekaboo with the baby because that seriously never gets old.

The party was great fun and perfectly easy but it absorbed a fair amount of energy, and the morning after I got back in town I had to get up in the dark for a work trip, so when I came home tonight all I wanted to do was drink wine and play video games. Which I allowed myself to do for awhile, but I was troubled by the thought of last week’s produce–or was it from the week before?–slowly going soft in the fridge. So very reluctantly I roused myself for a round of old standbys.

I usually pick up a bag of zucchini from the dollar rack because I have a yogurty, wheat-y zucchini muffin recipe I like for a quick breakfast. However, a dollar bag of zucchini is about three zucchinis too many for this recipe. Remembering that I had picked up a quart of ricotta on a whim–having a new job allows me to be open to such whims again–I decided to make a very simple summer squash and potato gratin I got into last summer. Like the recipe says, it’s absurdly good for what it is: the potatoes get crispy, the squash melds with the creamy cheese, and it is savory and comforting without being heavy.

I threw the mystery plums from the last shopping trip in the slow cooker, got the gratin going, and mixed up the muffins while the gratin was in the oven. I made two pitchers of tea, one green and one black. I could practically do any of these things in my sleep, and in fact I think I kind of zoned out for a bit, because I snapped to suddenly when I was mixing up the muffins and realized, oh, if I have time to cook I ought to take time to write about it too. Not because I think I’ll forget my little toddler friend’s 1st birthday, and my pleasure and pride in helping to celebrate it. Not because I’m in danger of forgetting any steps of those muffins, but because between the new job and the revisions I am in danger of forgetting to make time for journaling or cooking or both. And since both writing and cooking make me feel me, or maybe even like the best version of myself, I am writing this entry to remind myself of that. And perhaps to remind myself that I can trust my knowledge and experience, I don’t need to overanalyze or give myself decision fatigue, I can just go on autopilot if needed for certain tasks and save my energy for something else.

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