Driveway Dinner Parties

An unexpected way to honor their mom on Mother’s Day Weekend

I’ll confess right up front that I don’t appreciate a soupy pork rib. I prefer a rib that resists a little.

A rib needs a certain amount of chewiness, is what I’m saying. A good rib needs to kiss you back.

Took a nice sampling of baby-backs over to Santa Monica on Friday night, for a driveway party with the daughters, the niece, and their respective boyfriends. White Fang came along, snatched two ribs off of people’s plates, the way pet wolves will, dismissive of protocol. The guests were nice about it; I was appalled.

“Young lady, that will probably be your last dinner party,” I told White Fang on the way home. “Hope those ribs were worth it. Seriously.”

Probably were.

Driveway dinner parties are starting to take place all over the city, with careful people, at careful distances, drinking careful wines. I took beer of course, because that’s still the best buzz of all. As I was telling Rapunzel’s boyfriend, Alex, a Friday beer is the best beer of the week, even now, in this fractured work world.

“Especially now,” he said.

We sat around, six of us in beach chairs, entertained by the mere sight of other people in close proximity. It quickly cooled, as Santa Monica will. The best AC will always be the kind that rolls off the ocean waves at 5 p.m. and produces what Walt Whitman called “the mystical, moist night air.”

The lovely and patient older daughter served two amazing salads. By amazing, I mean really amazing, a word (like love) that we maybe throw around too much. This time I absolutely mean it. Amazing.

The first salad was a standard potato, of remarkable texture, enhanced by anchovies, which gave it the saltiness of the sea. The second, a cucumber-pepper-ricotta salad, would knock you freakin’ head off.

“I made the ricotta myself,” my daughter says.

Honestly, with these two salads, some wine, a pitcher of Negronis, and a cache of cold beer, you didn’t really need a main course. But I’d brought smoked ribs, so we ate them anyway, mostly out of courtesy.

Everyone seemed glad we did. Rapunzel’s boyfriend even shook my hand when we were done, a sign I guess that he’s actually cleaned his hand of the gooey-wonderful ribs. Who cares? I mean, I’ve got a wolf snatching ribs off of plates and a teen-age boy who is pushing my buttons just for the sport of it.

“Driveway dinner parties are starting to take place all over the city, with careful people, at careful distances, drinking careful wines.”

I’m tip-toeing that line between happy and ornery, because in a few minutes, I will have to drive home. I wanted another beer, but decided against it.

All in all, a successful driveway dinner party. I highly recommend them. At 8 p.m., all the neighbors wailed on pots and pans and screamed out the windows in support of the front-liners. My legs got cold. Rapunzel told the story of how she got drunk one night and applied tanner to her own legs, leaving a cigar-colored splotch on her ankle that may last forever.

We talked about food a lot, and less about our work that usual. I confessed that I am always confusing ricotta for risotto, and when I say one I might often mean the other. They are nothing alike, yet they seem cousins.

I also admitted that I didn’t see the point of adding a teaspoon of anything, that I couldn’t imagine how a mere teaspoon changed a dish in any appreciable way…that to make a difference, you had to add at the very least a tablespoon, maybe more.

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing,” I said.

“How do you feel about nickels?” my niece’s boyfriend asked.

“What’s the point?” I asked, sticking to my guns.

The night grew long. The lovely and patient older daughter talked about how her mother never measured anything, and took liberties with recipes, substituting feta for blue cheese, to mixed results.

Chris Erskine: A rib needs a certain amount of chewiness. @erskinetimes

My daughter’s fiancé, Finn, explained how he’s going to turn their front yard into a backyard, with lounge chairs and tiki torches. Rapunzel talked some more about the paint job on her legs.  Everybody raved about the smoked ribs, when really it was the salads that were the stars.

Amid all this, I wondered how, on this Mother’s Day weekend, we could honor the kids’ late mama bear. Maybe I should make a teary toast? Maybe I should tell a funny story about the time she almost fell off a rental horse.

But really, they remembered her for me. Just by being there. Just by smiling and giggling the same way she once did.

That’s how they told their mother’s story. Amazing.

2 thoughts on “Driveway Dinner Parties

  1. Hi Chris, I have read your columns in sports and whatever other section of the times they put you in for all of your 30 years. Just wanted to say, please keep the humorous columns coming. We need humor more than ever right now!

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