For most of my adult life, I’ve subscribed to a cooking magazine. For years it was Gourmet, but when it went defunct I began to search for another one, and for the last couple of years I’ve subscribed to Bon Appetite. Last year, or the year before—I can’t quite recall when—they ran a feature for either Christmas or Thanksgiving where all their kitchen staff rented a home in upstate New York and held a Christmas/Thanksgiving shindig in the middle of July.
I don’t cook as much out of Bon Appetite as I would like to. The occasional recipe here and there, mostly on holidays. Yet, those features that show happy people having a grand time over food always appeal to me. Setting up a sort of a “culinary fantasy” that I—in my quest to accept that I’m a perfectionist—am always striving towards. Granted, most magazines and advertising play to this fantasy. Christmas is always the perfect Christmas in the right cabin in the snowy woods with friends and caroling. Thanksgiving is a Norman Rockwell portrait, the Fourth of July is like a low key Bud Light ad.
Yet, as a child who perhaps spent too much time watching TV, an adult who dreams big and often, I still like the idea of a whimsical, magazine perfect shindig. Thanks to a recent inheritance I had been given from a savings bond my Grandfather had from investing in the Rubik’s Cube, I knew the time was right to make my dreams to come true. I rented a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains, invited friends and told them “Come celebrate my insane whims at this Summer Christmas Shindig.”
I rented a nice, large cabin, arrived a day before everyone was due to arrive so I could get the place decorated, get all the food I was going to make prepped and in the fridge. I brought a bunch of the weird, mid-century kind of Christmas records that very niche that I love. The kind of music that can be grating to some who aren’t on the same, weird wavelength. I didn’t care, I was fully in my element and was planning on re-creating that old Folgers coffee ad where someone wakes the house up by making coffee, then comes downstairs to find their Son home from college and exclaims “Peter!”
On the next afternoon, my friends arrived. As I greeted them at the door they found me decked out in my finest Christmas sweater, a fire in the fireplace, the AC cranked to 60 as like I care about my carbon footprint when I’m in the whimsy zone, and a cabin full of Yuletide decor.
“Welcome! How’d you brave that awful snowstorm?” I asked my friends standing at the door looking like I walked out of a magazine advert. My friends were wearing T-shirts and shorts, and they looked at me concerned “Andy, it’s 87 out. You’re pouring with sweat.” Unfazed I replied, “I’m committing to the bit.”
As more friends arrived in their Summer attire, and as my sweater began to be heavy with easily 15 pounds worth of sweat, I gave up on my commitment, ended the fire and put on shorts and a shirt. As more of my friends arrived, the atmosphere was mostly relaxed, with some of my friends having a slight look of concern on their face. A look that to me seemed to say “Why did we agree to do this?” I tried to get the caroling off to start by holding a large cut out of Angela Lansbury’s face in front my own while singing “We Need a Little Christmas.”
That’s when I noticed the look of concern grew stronger on the face of all who were gathered. They stopped my singing “Andy, this is an intervention.” Turns out my friends are tired of all my random “Let’s hold mock graduation in the garden section of Target” whimsy. As my friends were saying I could have made this a “nice, mountain weekend” instead of “A weird Andy Williams TV Christmas special” there was a knock on the door at the cabin.
A forest ranger was standing there when I opened the door. “Son” he began, “we got reports of some kind of Christmas activity going on around here, on this, the hottest weekend in July,” I told the ranger what was going on and he just shook his head, agreed with my friends and suggested we make it a normal kind of weekend. “Bears are all around here this time of year, you think they celebrate Christmas!? They’re soulless trash compactors” he said. With that, we took down all the decorations, lit a fire outside in the pit, and made s’ mores.
I felt a little defeated, especially as all those gathered made me remove “Xavier Roberts’ Celebration at Sonic” off the calendar. In the end, though, it was a nice weekend. Even if that one ranger kept coming back to “Keep tabs on me.” See you next week.