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After what felt like weeks and weeks of preparation, but which was actually just a few days, the graduation party frenzy is finally over. It takes a lot of work to throw a big party, especially when the party-throwers are food snobs in the extreme. My focus was mainly on the four cakes I had to make, but I got to observe the rest of the elements from within the whirlwind itself.
My dad spent most of the time in the garden, ripping out weeds and trimming trees wherever he pleased. Pippin was particularly happy about this, as he got to stay outside and watch Dad all day. Mom was to be seen mostly finalizing plans for food (“Hello, Alex? I need to add beans and rice for ten more people.”) and worrying about whether or not we’d have enough meat for everyone (“I might just add more pork. Or would beef be better?”). Bailey flitted in every now and then, shouting about flowers and lemon drops and who knows what else. I semi-calmly baked four cakes (three of which were four layers) and tried to keep the peace, which was extremely helpful when a shouting match ensued over the most important purchase of bubbly water.
Come Saturday, the house was clean, the garden was pruned back, and the lemons were juiced. I found myself making frosting at 10 AM, sweaty and grumpy and ready to be done with the whole affair. Three hours later, I was still frosting cakes, and was still sweaty and grumpy. I finally threw the last few handfuls of shredded coconut at the cakes at 2 PM and called it a day. Somehow I managed to go pick up me and Jonji’s new dining room table, a Craigslist find, and shove it into our neighbors garage, as there is barely any room left in ours (“THERE IS NO ROOM IN THE GARAGE, HANA. THERE IS NO ROOM IN THE BACKYARD.”). By then I was thoroughly disgruntled and ready to punch anyone who tried to deny me a shower.
By 4 PM, the house was ready—flowers were placed in vases, the chips were set out in strategic intervals, and we were all miraculously clean and happy. The first guests arrived and the festivities began. The lemon drops ran out before an hour had gone by, but the food supply never failed. The cakes were a huge hit, and we even had enough for several people to sneak seconds. The night ended with jokes by the fire with a few stragglers, where I got to hear the “giant orange head” joke for the umpteenth time, and a very curious raccoon ended up in the apricot tree, looking for scraps. All in all, the party was an enormous success.
The recipe that I’m giving here really has nothing to do with the party, but it’s something my mom made earlier in the week that epitomizes summer vegetables for me. The combination of sweet corn and cherry tomatoes is fresh and exceedingly satisfying. When I taste a really good cherry tomato, I feel like I’m eating the sun. Really, eat one and see for yourself. The smell of cherry tomatoes reminds me of warm summer air, and the hot, soft earth underneath a tomato plant. Go to the Farmer’s Market this week and you’ll know what I mean. Don’t worry, no one will judge you for sticking a cherry tomato virtually up your nose—it just smells that good.
Summer Vegetable Salad
3 ears fresh corn, leaves still on
1 basket cherry tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled if necessary*
1 small handful feta
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
juice of 1/2 lemon
splash of champagne vinegar, or to taste
Shuck corn (in other words, remove husk and hair). Hold over a medium sized bowl and slice from top to bottom into the bowl, trying to keep the knife as close to the body of the corn as possible (you want kernels to remain whole). Repeat until all kernels have been sliced into the bowl. De-stem all cherry tomatoes and slice each in half. Add to the bowl. Slice cucumber into 1/4 thick wedges, then cut each into quarters. Add to bowl.
Crumble feta over everything, then sprinkle the parsley on top. Add lemon juice, champagne vinegar and olive oil to a jar and shake well. The ratio for the vinaigrette should be 1/3 lemon juice plus vinegar, 2/3 olive oil. Pour vinaigrette over the vegetables and toss well.
*This is only necessary if the skin is too thick and/or too bitter. Taste your own to check.