Unlike the last few cooking demos where only the hardiest of souls braved the storms, this Saturday’s event was a huge success. The snow stopped around 11am as predicted and glorious, golden, streaming sun appeared.The store felt like it did in December when regulars who had been in only days earlier mixed with new faces. Conversations and new friendships were popping up all around me and I stopped at one point to marvel at how much fun it is to throw a party.
No party is complete without someone like my old friend Dianne. Our first house was in a neighborhood that was turning over. There were a few older couples who had raised their families there, but for the most part it was “first homers” with new families. The bus stop was a mass of whirling children and steady, patient moms clutching coffee cups amid strollers and dogs. Dianne lived at the end of the street, we in the middle. My eldest and her youngest daughters were the same age. Hanni was everyone’s baby. We had parties around barbecues and talked about lawns and the neighbors who weren’t present.
I was standing in the back of the store today sampling out cheese, syrups and olives when I heard her through the crowd. She caught my eye and swooped off into the other room. There were delectable foods to sample; Pan seared salmon in Blood Orange olive oil and glazed with Coconut balsamic, Orzo and Lentil salad with mint and feta, Spring Vegetable Frittata, Rainbow Slaw with Jalapeño balsamic, and the pièce de résistance Bananas Foster. I caught up with Dianne and her buddy deep in conversation (and food) with Chef Joe.
As our children aged, the neighborhood began to change and several families divorced. I was saddened by the silent struggles I knew Dianne was living with. Through it all she was a powerful force of positive energy. She would not lose her house – the only home her two daughters had known. We laugh often about her stint on a UPS truck one Christmas season. She looked fetching in her lumpy brown uniform. Because Dianne collects people, you can drop her in the middle of China and she will know someone, who is related to someone else, who once went to school with her sister. She doesn’t have a sister, but you know what I mean.
The cooking demo was no different. Dianne is most comfortable working a crowd and soon the store was her stage. Her perpetual sunny personality lit up the event and I thought how lucky I am to have her friendship and support through so many years.