A party for me. Oh my.

A party for others; those I can do. Over the years birthday celebrations for the husband have included surprises at restaurants where he’s pondered why 30 of his friends are seated at tables around him.  There have been sly trips away and sweet dinners at home. This year his party built around a bespoke black forrest cake that nearly broke me.

It’s not that we don’t celebrate my birthday- but it’s usually a small (and painfully pricey) dinner out. The last time I had a proper party was my twenty first. The next major celebration was our wedding.

But this was an event just for me.  I was told we’ll eat what I like, based solely on what my favourite things are. It’s the female food lover’s equivalent of crafting a fantasy baseball team. All of the best players, all together on one field. 

Except when the question of favourites was posed I couldn’t name anything. Maria had schnitzel on noodles and crisp apple strudels. The spouse has wheat beers and pork ribs.  I sat  there at dinner in awkward silence and  grasped for things to name. ‘Bread?’ . ‘Salt?’ ‘Pepper?’ I suggested.

‘Stop naming things on the table’ he said.

I rationalised that maybe like a mother to seven children; as someone who works with food to select one or two options above the others would seem cruel.

‘Food has no emotions. Choose’; may have been the response.

And maybe it’s just that I’m not that great at putting myself first. I could name it for my mother. I could do it for my sister, my dad, my husband, all in thirty seconds.

So I started farming for happy memories. They started with people, but I found food in their wake. So that’s how we came up with the following.

  • Platter of cured meats and soft cheeses. For all the lazy lunches spent eating ham and cheese and bread with my Mum.

  • Baked gnocchi with tomato, mozzarella and basil. During my first snow in London this was what I cooked  when I I trying to make a place so unfamiliar feel like home. It worked.
  • A big green salad, with fennel and goat’s feta. A table isn’t complete at my sister’s without a large salad as a centrepiece (traditionally served with one from her collection of artistic salad servers).
  • Apple tart. Sometimes after Saturday swimming club Dad would stop and we’d get a plaited apple and custard tart to share for brunch. 

It was rustic sort of feast-  and while the dress may have been a little over the top, the crowd was very small. It wasn’t about the food, it was about the people that came forward in every bite

So while my family might not have been here to celebrate my 30th  birthday with me, in a sense they were,

And that’s how I found my favourite things.

Next year I’ll get to work on a song to go with it.