A couple of weekends ago, we packed up the better part of the restaurant kitchen, crammed it in the back of a pick-up, and drove two and a half hours east to cook an all-day anniversary party for a pair of longtime Delancey regulars.
We rented a big house along the Wenatchee River, about ten minutes from the property where the party was held, and we brought as many people as we could fit inside, including a set of 8-month-old twins and one almost-two-year-old June.
If you’ve ever been to Leavenworth in the summertime, you will remember how hot it gets. It hit 100 that weekend, and no one had air conditioning. The flies were out and biting. But the party guests were somehow still cheerful, playing lawn games, hula hooping, napping in the grass, clambering down the hill to cool off in the river.
Brandon and Co. got up at 6:30 to start smoking a billion pounds of brisket, ribs, and pork shoulder. Ricardo manned the smokers; Brandon and Ben and June ran errands; Amy drove to Idlewild Pizza to borrow their ice cream machine (thanks, Eric!) and churn twenty quarts of vanilla custard. At some point, Cody showed up, and Katie and Kyle and Michelle, and some Campari shandies. I got to sleep in(!) and read a decent chunk of a YA novel (that I, for the record, refuse to feel embarrassed about), and then June and I crashed the party and at least one of us ran around waving a half-eaten hot dog bun like a lunatic.
Actually, I shouldn’t call it crashing. The couple who threw the party had invited our staff to be a part of it, to sit down like everyone else and enjoy it. Of course, it’s hard to actually do that, and between running platters of food and bussing empty plates, we wound up perched on ice chests or leaning against the folding tables of our makeshift kitchen rather than sitting at the table they had set for us. But to have been included was something in itself, because that’s not standard protocol. When you work in a restaurant (or at a grocery store, or as a bank teller, etc. etc. etc.), if you do your job well, your work makes you invisible. Most often, we as customers only notice service when it’s really, really bad, because when it’s good, it feels effortless, natural, so subtle that you can’t really point to it. As customers, it can be easy to forget that someone is working hard to make us feel that way. So it means a tremendous amount to me, and to Brandon, and to all of us, I think, who have ever cooked and served, when we can get to know the people we are working for, and when we are included not only to work, but also to play. And now I am getting sappy.
In this case, they even called us over for a round of applause. WE HAVE LIVED THE DREAM.
Because it was so hot that weekend, the river was only cold enough to take your breath away for a minute (as opposed to permanently), and when I managed to ease myself in, I was rewarded with watching an otter swim by. We are having a summer. Hope you are, too.