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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pruny fingers, common threads & snapshots of life.

Back to back dinner parties this weekend, to accommodate the difficult schedules of friends we don't see enough. A marathon of cooking and washing pots lasting a full forty-eight hours leaving me with pruny fingers and some new insights into people's lives, through the stories they shared.
Friday evening, as we spooned potato-leek soup, followed by Cardoni Gratin and roast beef, in the company of a French antique-dealer, her Match.com and another French-American couple, we heard about the cat who is flown to France for four months each summer and Mr. Linkedin's experiences with Equine Therapy in Arizona. (Who knew?)
Creme de Marron, whipped cream, chocolate pound cake drizzled with Calvados and Saturday morning, with it's stack of dishes, came around much too fast. A couple of Alka-Seltzers, a courageous visit to the gym and my best "Happy to Oblige" face for some clients who needed to meet (and write me a check, thank goodness) and I was back home, setting the table with a fresh white cloth and wine glasses that had not had time to gather dust in between meals.
Choux-Croute/ Sauerkraut with a variety of attendant sausages and ham was preceded by tomato salad and home made anchovy spread on toasts. Our guests this time, were a husband and wife design team, whom we see quite often and a French-Israeli couple that we originally met as clients a decade ago, when they bought a house in which we had done some stone-work for the prior owner.
I knew that A. had developed and sold on three start-up companies before retiring. Last night I learned that he came to California after his military service in Israel, with fifty dollars in his pocket and, gleaned from Steinbeck's writings, the notion that this area was rural farmland, not unlike the kibbutz he was used to.
His French wife, who brought us jam she'd made from the fruit of trees they've planted in recent years, came to Berkeley in 1968 on a Fulbright Scholarship. Engineering was an unusual choice back then for a young French woman. M. described to us, the experience, of arriving on campus, in a Bourgeois skirt suit, stockings and sedate 1" heeled pumps. She might as well have landed from a space craft, amongst the hairy, beaded and bearded, be-jeaned students of the day. She quickly made a purchase of the first trousers she had ever owned and has never looked back.
When I first visited their home they were busy bringing in a lot of trees and shrubs to fill in the garden, that had been largely ignored by the prior residents. They were interested in creating a stone bench, to mimic the curve of the jacuzzi, set on a rolling slope above the pool. They wanted somewhere to drape their towels. I thought it would look like stadium seating or bleachers and suggested an alternative. We ended up taking stone columns, breaking them and having some upright, some fallen, as if they were the ruined vestiges of some structure that had always been there. I heard last night that some visitors ask if they sustained earthquake damage.
The other contributions we made to their landscape were an antique apple press from Normandy and a certain poem about daffodils. The apple press was hand hewn from granite, three centuries old, and weighed fifteen tons. Each piece, including the giant stone wheel, was lovingly positioned just off the driveway, visible from the front door. The owner of the forklift company we hired to do the install, still talks about that day and I still have the thank you notes that husband and wife each sent to us to express their appreciation. I heard last night that, for him especially, it is a reminder of historic landscapes of his childhood.
I had copied Wordsworth's Daffodil poem to show M. and she took to the vision of "a host of golden daffodils" naturalized throughout their parkland. That first year alone she planted three thousand bulbs. Yesterday she told me that she orders a thousand more each year. M. has added tulips to the mix, but for each clump of tulips she must surround them with daffodils to fool the gophers. I can sense a springtime daffodil viewing visit coming on.



19 comments:

  1. I think I gained weight just reading this post. Attendant sausages and ham? Yum!

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  2. Food... food... food...

    I am now salivating like Homer Simpson.

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  3. A feast for tummy and mind alike, methinks.

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  4. I would love to see that bulb fest. Sounds like a fascinating weekend with grand conversation and food. I won't tell you how boring mine was - although cold, rainy, a warm blanket and a good book accompanied it. Marvelous.

    Still would have enjoyed being at your dinner table.

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  5. Stephen, that is one problem for those of us who enjoy food as much as we enjoy people.

    Steve, it was impossible to resist.

    Argent, we try to keep it interesting and tasty.

    Midlife, we were exhausted by the end of it all but there's always room for one more.

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  6. I'd love to see that. Our daffodils give a fleeting performance every year, before the deer start dining. You have interesting guests and wonderful food. Can I come?

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  7. Wally, from what I've read, your dinners are "Legendary". There are interesting people everywhere.With the right leading questions and a few glasses of wine, conversation flows.

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  8. What a wonderful, if exhausting, weekend for you.

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  9. Wonderful times with good friends, good food, and decidedly interesting conversation. Too bad we so often wait for the holiday season to enjoy this kind of thing.

    Thousands of daffodils? I can't even imagine planting so many. You will have to visit and take pictures for us all to see. Have to laugh a bit about "fooling the gophers." Here, I'm pretty sure the squirrels raiding some of my tulips. Then again, I also think they planted crocus in various parts of the yard. So it's kind of a "tit for tat." *lol*

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  10. e, we enjoy company and cooking but it's true, there is work involved.

    Jean, The husband was complaining that he's not allowed to dig anywhere in the garden as he will hit the layer of bulbs that are just below the surface. Squirrels take tulips out of my planters too.

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  11. I got impressed by the names of the dishes: Cardon Gratin, Creme de Marron, Calvados, Choux-Croute/Sauerkraut...I had to look them up (except for the sauercraut).

    It's well-known that good food makes for good,fruitful meetings and relations.

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  12. I'm willing to put on a black-and-white outfit and serve, just to be able to eavesdrop on the conversations.

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  13. Duta, Husband's cooking abilities are amongst the reasons I keep him around:) He's horribly messy, though.

    Deborah, just come and join us. We don't stand on ceremony. It's family style. I have always had an interest in people and they rarely disappoint. Everyone has an interesting story or perspective. My pleasure in my guests goes on for days after each party. I love matching up a group that will spark.

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  14. Your weekend sounds wonderful. As someone who spends most of her time covered in dog & cat hair, I can't imagine how nice it would be to have dinner parties :)

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  15. Pauley and family, whilst I don't take on the numbers of dogs that you do, if you search my blog for foster dog posts, there have been a few. I'm more of the finishing school for individuals with behavioral issues.

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  16. Pauley, I feel the love, thanks. I'm sure your behavior is impeccable.

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  17. I won't whisper a word to Husband about any of this . He'd be thumbing a lift to you , bass tucked under his arm .

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