Every time my parents host a party, my mom cooks for hours. Fried chicken, baked chicken, barbecue chicken, rice and peas, macaroni and cheese, fish cakes, beef patties from scratch…the list goes on.
So when I’m having friends over, I do the same. I run through Stop and Shop, mowing down strangers to pick up items that, through sheer will, transform into something delicious. I lock myself in the kitchen and produce several dishes after hours with a smile and happily state, “oh, it was no trouble.” I used to think it was because I was some sort of 1950s throwback housewife (with no husband), but the truth is, I’m a lot more like my mother than I ever realized.
that’s not me and my mom, by the way. but it could have been.
I invited my good friends L. and B. over for drinks–a weird category that could minimally include snacks, dessert, and some beer.
L. and B., a married couple, have a special place in my heart and life. I chose my current apartment because I had a vision that they were on my deck drinking beer. After having that vision, I signed the papers. I’ve been living here for 3 years and we had yet to make the vision happen, so I decorated my porch and finally had them over.
But yesterday, at around 108 degrees in a four floor walkup with no central air, it was altogether too hot to think about cooking. I cleaned, of course, all the while mopping my brow with stray pieces of paper towel, but I didn’t know what I was going to feed L. and B.! If I only bought a few snacks, I would have my West Indian card snatched. But if I cooked, I would melt before they arrived.
I stopped myself and asked, “what would a white person do?”
No kidding. I love my parents’ brand of hospitality, but I didn’t want to die of a heat stroke. I know a few white people who do cook for parties. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s a marked difference between going to a black house party and a white house party.
Black parties: more food
White parties: more alcohol
With that in mind, I baked some mac and cheese, threw on a halter top dress and ran to KFC to pick up a bucket of chicken. I kept mumbling “keep it simple, stupid,” as I ran through the liquor store picking up cases of beer, and light rum, then through Stop and Shop to pick up chips, fresh salsa, strawberries and ice cream. I snatched everything I needed to make mojitos from scratch and prayed that L. would bring a muddler.
In the back of my mind, however, I could hear West Indian aunties everywhere admonish me.
“What, you couldn’t make some cook-up rice? You couldn’t fry your own chicken? B. is a grown man! How you going to give a grown man store-bought chicken?”
Then, when L. made the mojitos with bartender-like precision, my aunties chimed in again: “how you going to let another woman do the work! she’s a guest!
But I silenced the aunties in my mind, and set out the bucket of KFC before L. and B. Over beer and mojitos, I said, “I would have fried the chicken myself, but…it’s too hot,” I smiled my apology.
“Oh my gosh! You made mac and cheese? You got chicken? This is amazing!” L. and B. responded.
The West Indian aunties kept quiet after that.
By the end of the night, we all had a chance to enjoy the cool breeze, look at the mountain, watch the sunset, and laugh about all the parties we went to and hosted over the past 7 years. We even got to listen in on an argument two of my neighbors were having! (ahh, city life). The pressure I always feel at being the perfect host was gone. I learned that, as long as my guests are well fed, happy, and content, I’ve done a good job.
Even if I didn’t fry the chicken myself.
p.s. you can find the recipe for the perfect mojito here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/the-real-mojito/