Phew! Well! Turning forty is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure! It’s been a month-long extravaganza. There was my book club celebration, a trip to Mexico, festive dinners with friends, and finally, my birthday party. It’s been wonderful. And I’m exhausted. But in a good way. In the best possible way.
The birthday party was a Spanish tapas buffet that grew from a tiny seed started months before in an e-mail exchange with my friend Christie–as in, “Hey, why don’t we have a party the weekend you’re coming to visit?”
Friends and family came from out of town, including Michael’s parents. Big sister Robin even flew in from California for the weekend. My younger Sissy and Michael each made dozens of cupcakes.
On the afternoon of the party, I had many willing hands to help set up tables in the backyard (every woman should have a few men in her life who will move tables a few inches over then back again with nary an eye roll while she ponders the overall gestalt of the layout), and arrange flowers, and an army of sous chefs in the kitchen assembling tapas. And at three o’clock on Sunday afternoon, just as the first of forty-some guests arrived, the sun–ever fickle in Seattle–even came out right on cue.
It was glorious. There were hugs and squeals and lipsticky kisses and heartfelt advice on life after forty. This was enhanced by a veritable river of sangria, and a selection of Spanish wines. A long buffet table fairly groaned under its load of tapas, including contributions from my guests. My 16-year old nephew circulated unobtrusively throughout the party–taking plates, filling glasses, and replenishing the buffet. The yard was a summer fairyland dotted with tables full of laughing, chattering, amazing, beloved people.
Oh yes, all this and there was music, too. Incredible, beguiling, singer-songwriter-folk music courtesy of Allyson and Pam, who created a beautiful spell with their songs and cast it over the party.
Surrounded by love, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the many spectacular people in my life—old and new friends, family, mentors, surrogate mothers, sisters. And I hope that each of my guests had as wonderful a time as I did. Because the party really wasn’t about me, it was about them—about trying, in some small measure, to thank my village and my tribe for their friendship and generosity in walking with me through the first forty years of my life.
Ham and Quails’ Egg Tapas
(adapted from The Book of Tapas by Simone and Ines Ortega)
- 12 quails eggs (found in Asian grocery stores)
- 24 thin slices of baguette
- 24 thin slices of Serrano ham (jamón ibérico would be even better if you have a source)
- chopped parsley
Place quails’ eggs in a large pan of salted water, bring to a boil, and boil gently for 3 minutes. Drain and fill the pan with cold water. When eggs are cool, shell them. Or eggs can be boiled in advance and stored in their shells in the refrigerator overnight.
Top each baguette slice with a piece of ham, folded to fit bread.
Cut each egg in half lengthwise. Put half an egg on top of each tapa, cut side up, then sprinkle with parsley.
These are best served immediately, but can be stored in the refrigerator for a short period of time.