You may have figured out by now that it’s birthday season around here – as in most families, our birthdays come in clusters, most of them in January and October, with two double birthdays included in this month. This weekend was the end of the January run, as B turned 10. He couldn’t decide between cream puffs and cake (takes after his aunt, he does) and so I made sunken chocolate cakes, their concavity perfect for a pile of cream puffs.
Let me pause here before getting into the sticky details of spinning sugar and dribbling chocolate to use this as a segue way to introduce a fun new series my friend Jan and I have been scheming. Although there is no shortage of recipes on this world-wide interweb, what we love most about food is its ability to bring people together; not just families at mealtimes, but extended families – relatives and friends and strangers connecting around food, whether it’s a celebration or an impromptu gathering. Food is social, it’s comforting, it nourishes and connects us in ways we can all relate to. It’s a common ground. The concept of “entertaining”, though, makes gathering friends around your dinner table seem daunting. People say to me all the time, “you must entertain a lot,” which conjures images of beef Wellington and crème brûlée and me in the kitchen sipping wine in a stylish apron with a 29 inch waist. Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with beef Wellington and crème brûlée, but the notion of entertaining in that Martha-meets-the-Stepford-Wives style puts so much pressure on the host that most often we’re dissuaded from doing anything.
So. This year Jan and I are bringing back the casual gathering – and taking the pressure off of those fancy events we so often approach from a standpoint of damage control – and having as many dinner parties and other gatherings as possible. On the last Wednesday of each month we’ll post about one or more of them here, which will allow us to get a running start on a new blog – called Gatherings – where we’ll share recipes, ideas, techniques and tools that we hope will inspire (and help!) anyone putting together a party, or just looking for new ways to bring friends together around the table. (Jan used to be a professional party planner, you know! she knows all about quantities and catering secrets and tons of helpful stuff!) Gatherings will (hopefully!) launch April 1, and we’re even talking about turning it into a book… although those details haven’t been figured out yet. For now, we’ll start here.