Winter Solstice. Chili. Blue foods. We used to have fun hosting creative themed house parties. For nearly a dozen years we hosted a Winter Solstice party in celebration of the first day of winter, the shortest day of the year, during the December timeframe. We had a roaring fire, drinks and snacks and plenty of laughs. Some of our best friends became good friends with couples whom they met at our house. We heard that some would socialize with their new friends on their own whereas others just looked forward to catching up with old acquaintances at the party each year. We found the parties fun dreaming up, organizing and preparing the house.
But as time wore on, we as hosts, discovered we weren’t able to socialize as much as everyone else because we were busy filling glasses, cleaning up empties, setting up the buffet table. We were watching the fire, making introductions and moving things along to the next activity like the Yankee Swap. Years went by. We came to the conclusion that everyone was having much more fun than we were. We too just wanted to be guests at a fun party. So around 2016 we decided to pull the plug. Most of the regulars were deeply disappointed when they learned of our decision.
A different time we hosted a Chili Cook-off party but with the Chili Cook-off we got smarter. We supplied the beer and wine and cornbread but the guests did most of the cooking by virtue of the competition to discover the best, most popular homemade chili. Guests cooked up enough of their homemade chili for each of us to taste. And in some cases, taste again and again as they savored and compared the entries. We all hung around in the kitchen area because that’s where the food was warming. Each contestant’s chili entry was given a number and displayed next to the entry. Then a secret ballot was conducted to rate the three best chilis. The winner received an unmemorable gift, a blue ribbon and the envy of all the other contestants. A Cincinnati Chili won one year beating out Washabinaros Chili and Tom’s Famous Tailgate Chili. You’d be surprised how competitive some people were arguing the merits of one chili over another. Losers left saying “just wait until next year!” You would have thought they were arguing over a close play at third base in the ninth inning of a crucial game tied 3-3 in the Sox-Yankees rivalry.
Leaving chili behind, another year we hosted the Blue Party in celebration of the color blue and blue foods, or better yet the paucity of blue foods. Feeling bad for the color blue, I wanted to bring attention to this phenomenon. Blue is such a calming, peaceful color, full of expression. It’s the color that communicate unity and harmony, but what happened to its representation in agriculture? We wanted to see what we could do about it.
Our friends are pretty creative and expressive too; a smaller number of friends took us up on this themed party, and they were asked to bring something that was “blue” to eat or drink and to share.
I did a little research ahead of time and learned there are so few blue foods because blue light is the highest energy wavelength in the visible light spectrum. Food chemists have found that anthocyanins are to blame for the bluish color found in blueberries, blue potatoes and blue corn. But they’re really being nice about the subject because blue potatoes and blue corn are not really blue at all. They are really purple in hue much like eggplant and grapes.
So back to the party. Once everyone arrived with Chicago Blues artists Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Paul Butterfield playing in the background after Joni Mitchell’s classic “Blue”, Norma began mixing blue margueritas and blue martinis for those who dared. Roquefort cheese was served with blue chips. The main meal was both bluefish and balsamic blueberry chicken along with blue potatoes and Blue Nun (wine). Dessert was blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream and blue M&Ms.
While everyone brought foods or drinks, our good friend Gary who was selling janitorial supplies at the time had his wife wrap him in rolls and rolls of blue toilet paper from head to toe so he looked like a a mummy. He called himself “Blue Toilet Paper Man” and when he talked he sounded a little like how we all do talking behind our Covid-19 masks. He explained he was someone who was really just wrapped up in his work.
Thinking of Gary and remembering the fun we had socializing at our various themed house parties one can’t help but wonder when we will be able to do it again. Safely. Or when we will be able to simply drop by a friend’s house without wearing a mask and without worrying about the spread of Covid-19 or it’s variants. Public health officials say summertime may see things ease up as we’re still in an uncontrolled pandemic with thousands still dying every day, with variants spreading fast and anti-vaccination crazies running amok. When the coast is clear, maybe we’ll bring back the Winter Solstice for old times sake. Would you like to be invited?