Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Love Shack

As with real estate, when it comes to parties, it's all about location, location, location.

Tonight's was pretty extraordinary: bucolic (Goochland County), outdoor (under a grand wooden pavilion) but warm (a roaring fireplace), adjacent to an orchard (cherry, pear, apple, fig and persimmon) and with a gorgeous Flemish bond brick oven we'd come to test out before the main event - a far grander party next weekend.

There's nothing like having a practice party before the real party.

Because six of the eight people at this shindig had been to South Africa, things kicked off, appropriately enough, with Wilderer Cape Fynbos grappa, an apperitif redolent with 30 South African herbs and made all the more special because it had been purchased there for the express purpose of drinking with friends here.

Over the course of the evening, ten pizzas of varying combinations - sausage, city ham, lamb, smoked salmon, bleu cheese, Fontina, Asiago, Mozzarella, homemade red and white sauces - were crafted and baked in the new oven, each one cut into 8 pieces so everyone got a slice and the opportunity to opine on the ever-changing permutations.

Not a tough assignment, especially with a glass of Goats Do Roam Rose in hand. The South African delights just kept on coming.

Three of the guys took on pizza-making duties, at least until we were down to our last ball of pizza dough, at which point our affable host, Pierre, insisted that it was my turn to learn the drill. I'm not here to tell you that my pizza was great, but after untold bottles of wine (some more expensive than my electric bill) and nine previous pizzas, it was a forgiving crowd.

There was even romance in the air when the blond said, "A bug just bit my cheek!" and her man called from across the massive table, "I wish I'd been that bug!"

An unexpected treat was watching our hostess as she made her 115th shack of 2017. That's right, 115 shacks in as many days.

Seems she'd decided to do an art project a day for a year (sort of like Noah Scalin's Skull-a-Day project) and the theme she'd chosen was shacks. Today's assignment was to create a shack from a wooden toy kit, which she'd purchased for $1.12.

Although the kit was for a flower truck, she handily turned it into a shack complete with overhanging front porch and cylindrical columns. Looking to be helpful, I asked if she'd like me to bring her some shrubbery and the shack soon had a "tree" on either side. When I showed up with mulch, she scattered it over the roof. A beer bottle cap became the front door.

It took almost as long to get just the right photograph (lighting was challenging despite using the flashlights on 3 cell phones) to document everything as it had taken to craft it in the first place.

It was clear she was taking great pleasure in this project, even admitting how much happier she's felt since adding daily art into her life. Her husband confirmed how much more she's been smiling since the start of the year. It's all about doing what you love.

What this group loved was talking about wine and food, with an occasional digression into naked survivor TV shows, the challenges of playing soccer with 18-year olds and why no one should eat a pepper when it's still green, ever, even if they are 30 cents cheaper than red ones.

If the practice party was this much of a good time, no telling what the real thing might bring with scads more people to join the fun.

I, for one, intend to find out.

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