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The Big Stick Pool Tournament

Wow! It’s been a year since my little blog began. It’s moved from a WordPress hosted free blog to its own domain, growing from just a couple of pages to several, and it’s still a work in progress. And we’ve been in the New York Times! How cool is that!

To celebrate the year, I thought I’d talk a little about why the blog came to be. Mostly, I wanted a central place to share old family and Southern style recipes for my children as they move into their own lives, an archive of sorts. And I also wanted to share the facets of life that we find so enjoyable—cooking, eating and spending time with family and friends. Doing life together…that’s what In a Southern Kitchen is all about. That’s probably true for many, if not most, Southern kitchens and Southern cooks. We feed people, in good times and bad. Someone dies…we bake a cake or a casserole and take it to the family. Someone has a baby…we take dinner. Someone gets sick or goes to the hospital…we feed the loved ones at home. Someone has a bad day…we bake brownies. Or we say, “Come have a glass of wine and let’s talk about it.”

I love to cook for my family and friends. When the kids are coming home, I try to make one of their favorite foods because that’s how I convey, “I’ve missed you and I’m glad you’re home.” And the resulting smile lets me know they feel the same way. There are memories in food…memories of place and time and people…nostalgia wrapped in a whiff of cinnamon or the sound of bacon frying on the stove.

David and I entertain frequently, so In a Southern Kitchen is a natural place to share what we’ve learned about hosting both large and small groups, whether it’s a brunch, a family Thanksgiving or a dinner party. It’s not unusual for us to have a group of twenty or more for dinner although those occasions are rarely formal. The exception is at Christmas when we have a formal dinner for more than twenty friends. This dinner is sometimes plated and sometimes set up with a nice buffet, complete with silver trays and candles. Other times, we have a more casual event where everyone brings something and all is set up either on a buffet table in our keeping room or just along the counter in the kitchen.

That’s how our annual Big Stick Pool Tournament goes—we have a buffet table set up in the keeping room and everyone brings a side dish or appetizer to share, while I usually prepare a main entrée and dessert.

Don’t be afraid to think out of the box when having a party. You might have to move furniture around or even set up a table in the foyer, which we’ve also done before. If we’re setting up in the keeping room, which adjoins the kitchen, we either move the small sofa and chair to the garage or just move them to the side and place the long table over the coffee table (you can see the legs peeking out from underneath in the photo above). If you’re going to have a lot of people then you need to arrange for maximum ease of flow. And even then, plan for everyone to hang right there in the kitchen!

 

Look at this gorgeous grilled prosciutto-wrapped asparagus that my friend Molly brought:

After dinner, we all head downstairs to the basement for the pool tournament. We have a very sophisticated bracketing system, engineered by our friend Barry, who serves as the rule enforcer and general Grand Poobah of the event.

This is the 4th pool tournament that we’ve hosted, which means that each year the trash talking gets worse and worse.

A woman has yet to win, but we’re putting forth a great effort, carried by our friend Jenni this year. I’m quite certain wine consumption is unrelated to us ladies not capturing the trophy yet. But I have faith—one of us is winning that trophy next year!

Sometimes, things can get a bit rowdy and balls start hopping off the table. This is when our resident art gallerist feels the need to protect the art.

Even those who don’t take part in the tournament still have a great time. With good food, good wine and good company, what’s not to love?

 

This is a fun time and a great way to have a large party. Create a theme, like a pool tournament—or you could have a card game or charades or just about anything. Most of the time we get together just to get together with no activities involved. For the pool tournament, we have an actual trophy that the winner takes home with the caveat that it has to be passed on to the next year’s winner. Courtesy of my husband’s wicked humor, the trophy reads: He’s got a big stick and he knows how to use it.

But better than the trophy—or even the food and wine—is the joy we get from hanging with our friends and family.

That joy is the spirit in which In a Southern Kitchen began. I hope that you can find something here to help you do life together. Nothing makes me happier than to hear a friend say, “I made your {blank} last night!”

Thank you so much for reading and please come back again.

Lucy

For more tips on hosting a casual dinner party and menu suggestions, please visit the Casual Dinner Party page. Look for the recipe soon for Sunday Gravy, which was the entrée for this year’s Big Stick Pool Tournament.

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Calli

Thursday 15th of September 2011

Read the blog tonight ;-) CONGRATS!!!

Shawn

Wednesday 14th of September 2011

Congratulations on your 1st year...It's only going to get better!

Your Big Stick Pool Tournament is something else! I want to start something similar for my husband's birthday. He'll absolutely love it :)