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.