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Cleaning for a party is that old conundrum -- the massive cleaning effort that goes into preparing for a party is immediately cancelled out by actually having a party. We vacuumed, dusted, washed some of those dishes that only come out at the holidays and took out what seemed like huge amounts of stuff that had finally sat around long enough to be considered garbage or junk.
And now that everyone has left, we get to vacuum, dust, wash dishes and take out huge amounts of stuff that's either garbage or junk.
Not that it was a wild party but recycling day will show how much booze we went through -- a few bottles of champagne, some 22oz bottles of beer (Ninkazi, not that wimpy downstream stuff), miscellaneous beer and wine bottles... We didn't kill any liquor bottles, but there are a couple that barely avoided the trip to the curb... this time.
This was a work party -- one of those obligatory events where co-workers are forced to try to talk about something other than work, and invariably degenerates into complaining about whoever isn't in the room. Surprisingly, this party didn't actually go that route, and I think two things really make the difference between a party and a bitchfest: food and drink.
Okay, bringing your spouse/mate/date probably helps temper the, "And then, THIS happened the other day!" But I think a good spread helps make a party a Party. And it's not just ample food and drink, it's presentation, it's variety, and it's masterful service.
I'm not saying I'm a Master at Service, I just cook and clean and leave the details to Markie and together we do okay. But it got me thinking about that phrase, "Masterful Service."
We like our hierarchies in American culture. The whole egalitarian thing is just a shortcut to fighting to get on top, or hiding in the crowd when the fray gets too messy. We're really not that good at having someone who is sometimes your follower and sometimes your leader. We don't really appreciate the finer details of service because we think of "service" as being something beneath us if we are the ones being served.
I will never know as much about aromatics and whiskey as the head bartender at Beaker and Flask. I will never know as much about fish and preparation as the sushi chef at Koji's. Although I'm paying them, I put myself in their charge and let them pleasantly surprise me.
This gets to one of my core complaints of the whole "Holiday Season." We know we're supposed to have grand parties, but grand parties take skills we don't cultivate. The standard holiday party has a few trays from Costco, a counter with a couple bottles of wine and a cooler of beer.
Those parties can be great, but when they masquerade as something special something in the party seems to be... missing. We have these images of lights reflected in wine glasses and glazed meats and deserts that are better than sex. But we also have this tradition that says, "I'm the host, I have to do everything," without any idea of what "everything" entails.
Ultimately, I'd say a lot of the disappointment we have during the holidays is that we don't know who to let run things -- there's a lot of work miracles and wonder. Letting yourself embrace what you're good at, and letting go of what you're not so good at, is hard. Understanding that someone may know more than you do and maybe should take the lead, even if you think of them as a servant or an employee, is the difference between mediocrity and a really great time.