By the time you read this, they will be on their way home: 8 in-laws for the weekend, dinner for 12 on Friday night, lunch for 18 on Saturday, and Easter lunch for 26 on Sunday.
It all takes weeks of preparation, none of which my husband quite understands. Massive lists and multiple trips to different food stores. Beds get miraculously made up, towels and soaps get distributed, and dozens of rolls of toilet paper get put into place.
This is the 12th or so time I’ve hosted everyone. Usually around Friday afternoon I question my sanity and wonder what I have gotten myself into. And by Sunday morning I am exhausted, sore, and sick of food in general (yet, like everyone else, I have overeaten again).
Why do I do it? Food is the excuse to get people together. Sure, I am happy when the tenth person compliments me on my glazed ham. And there is emotional satisfaction of mastering a family recipe and passing on the flavor from one generation to the next. But I am no Martha Stewart. Cooking for so many people feels more like being an Army cook than a gourmet chef—and I am so messy Martha would fire me if I ever worked for her.
It’s really about the moments. Like Lucia’s first egg hunt when she can really run, and for the first time gets the idea, and every one is filming and photographing—and then the dog goes to the center of the action and poops. Or the fact that my sister-in-law and I both cut our finger in the exact same spot cutting a crusty loaf of bread—and afterwards decided to become “blood sisters.” Or watching from across the room as my 87-year-old mother-in-law starts to cry as she says goodbye to my frail 80-year-old mother, who is dying of cancer and hasn’t quite admitted it to herself. My mother-in-law has seen two of her sisters-in-law buried in the past two weeks, and knows that every goodbye these days could be a last goodbye. Deep down, my mother knows that too, but she isn’t ready to believe it.
I do it because I want these moments in my life and in my daughters’ lives. And whether you are rich or poor, the most deeply joyous times come from love and family. If that means cooking mass quantities of food for a few days, I’m the woman for the job.