Our friend Eric was not born in the U.S. but in the city of Lille, France. His future wife, Mary, was American, however. They met in France and farmed together, then moved to this country.
We met Eric in the catering business. Eric had been a catering supervisor and was one of the best in the business here in the District of Columbia, or what may be the catering center of the universe.
Eric had an ingenious hobby. He collected the pieces and shards of broken platters from various catering events and turned them into incredible mosaics. At one point, he had his studio in our house. You always knew Eric was around by the sound of his snippers snipping broken ceramic to fit in his mosaics.
Mary died of breast cancer a few years ago and Eric now runs a small events operation for one of the local think tanks. But we love his company and especially his dry humor and his laugh. He always threatens to move back to France, but recently he made our country his country, becoming a U.S. citizen. We had to celebrate and raise the roof. My wife went all out.
The preparations took a week. First my wife made a visit to Ikea and picked up some flexible ice cube molds with stars and bars shapes. She used cranberry and blueberry juice to start freezing patriotic ice cubes. Then she devised an all-American menu: meat loaf, macaroni and cheese, braised green beans and Caesar salad with homemade garlic croutons, followed by ice cream and cookies.
She started on the cookies days ahead. Chocolate-chip, peanut butter, snickerdoodles--she made the dough, then used a small mechanical scoop to turn then into little balls that she then froze so they would be ready to bake later. Two days before the party, she was also scooping out small rounds of chocolate and vanilla ice cream and stuffing what might be best described a tall ceramic shot glasses. These would be displayed with chocolate and caramel sauces and whipped cream.
My contribution was the meat loaf and the green beans. Friends Keith and Janice brought the wine as well as a retro onion dip with rippled potato chips. My wife displayed patriotic dinner plates (we just happen to have a collection) in red and blue with white stars. Our best white linen napkins were freshly pressed and rolled with forks.
It was a great party. Eric, being the curmudgeonly Frenchman, had to be tricked into having a party at all. But he quickly turned into the perfect guest of honor, greeting all the guests as they arrived and circulating like a champ. He was beaming, and everyone else was lapping up the beer and raving about the macaroni and cheese.
The meatloaf and macaroni and cheese were every bit as good reheated the next day. And Eric is talking about being naturalized on an annual basis from now on.