It was our last summer in our first farm-home.
Southern Living Magazine had just arrived in my mailbox. On the cover was a full-proof plan for a summer dinner.“You’ll swear by these no-fuss recipes all season long. Pick a meat, toss up a few sides, and let the backyard party begin!” said the magazine.
I got all nostalgic about moving and decided to host a real-deal dinner party before I packed the last moving box. A sort-of-farewell party to our house.
The day of the party arrived.
I set out our real fancy wedding-gift china on my great, great, grandmother’s antique walnut dining table.
The menu consisted of:
Grilled Molasses Flank Steak with Watermelon Salsa
Grilled Corn with Parmesan-Pesto Butter
Heirloom Tomato Salad.
And for dessert…two EASY ICEBOX PIES
Praline Key Lime Pie
Strawberry-Pretzel Icebox Pie
A bit ambitious of a menu for me. A). My sous-chef was a highly-spirited son who just turned two and B). I’m not an amazing cook.
But heck…Southern Living said it was “no fuss.”
The day of the party arrived. I’d shopped, mowed our lawn, had on my best frilly apron, and was cooking up a storm.
All proceeded according to plan until I started oven-roasting the pecans for the Key Lime Pie.
I used an iron skillet.
But forgot to use an oven mitt to retreive the sizzling skillet from the blistering oven.
I screamed. Bloody murder. And stupidly held onto that iron skillet for what seemed like an eternity. I was paralyzed in pain.
But I was hosting a party. Captain goes down with the ship & hostess goes down with the party. By gosh…I was determined.
My hand was bubbly. My son terrified at the yelling. And I began scrambling for pain relief.
With my good hand I riffled through the medicine cabinet until I found the pain pills I’d been prescribed from the broken nose I’d received a few months prior.
Use as needed. Yep. I needed them.
But nothing happened. My hand still throbbed.
It had been all of five-minutes.
I’m rather impatient so decided to take a further step.
It always worked in the Westerns. A swig of liquor that is. Always helped John Wayne when he was shot with an arrow or pierced with a bullet.
My husband had recently taken an agricultural tour in Kentucky and brought back a bottle of bourbon from a distillery. I opened the top and took a nice long chug (maybe two) (perhaps three).
If you know me personally you know that both of those choices (pain pills and liquor consumption) are extremely atypical of my personality.
But…the party must go on. And a burning hand hurts. And John Wayne said so.
When my guests arrived they found me sitting in a chair gazing at the cattle in our front pasture. With slurred speech I explained the situation.
Hemingway calls it “getting tight.”
Somehow, in my drugged up state, I’d thrown together the rest of the dinner & insisted we carry on as planned.
The men-folk went outside to watch the kiddos while my girls and I made final preparations.
While gathering utensils I looked up and I saw a giant snake in front of my kitchen window. It was at least four feet long and was being held by the daring gentleman who’d found it lurking in the grass. It wasn’t a hallucination. It was a by-product of living in the country.
Our toddler and preschool age children screamed in delight and terror. Snake handling was not in the Southern Living hospitality section so I told the handler to get off my porch.
We finally gathered around the table. The snake safely disposed behind our house. The kids banished to the kitchen so we could enjoy adult conversation.
I probably looked like Courtney Love circa 1990s trying to host a party.
Then, much like the final scene in a movie, I watched my best friend topple to the floor. That antique chair finally used its last leg.
My Southern Living Party had turned into a Not So Southern Living Party.
I was drugged. My hand wrapped in swab, snakes were entertainment, and chairs were breaking at the dinner table.
Fantastic evening if you’re a frat boy, not so much if you’re a mother just trying to have a few friends over.
My friends swear the pies were exceptional. I’m not so sure. I didn’t hang-around for seconds. I did what any good hostess might do… I told my guests good-night and retired to bed.
My friends washed the dishes and cleaned up the mess. We love each other like that.
I learned several life lessons that summer evening:
1). Never-ever self-medicate like they do in Western movies.
2). Always use an oven mitt.
3). Stick to tried and true recipes when hosting a party.
These are the gems they don’t teach you in Southern Living. But should. Because real southern living isn’t always an upscale fuss-free backyard party.
But in all due respect, Southern Living did have one thing right, I certainly did “swear” by those recipes.