The first thing we decided was that we didn’t want to make two turkeys. Yes, we cared about our friends. Yes, we wanted to make sure that everybody got together at least once before dispersing for the holidays. But two turkeys is a lot to ask of anyone. My boyfriend and I were already planning on having a quiet meal with another couple on the actual holiday, and we’d promised ourselves that our culinary skills (such as they were) were to be devoted to one big bird for that night.
But these were our friends. Didn’t we owe them at least the effort of cooking another big meal? “No,” my boyfriend told me emphatically. “Absolutely not. They’re lucky to get even a party.” Sometimes he had trouble getting into the holiday spirit. I, however, was not to be so easily dissuaded.
“We have to do something,” I told him. “It just isn’t right not to celebrate with everyone.”
“Someone else could throw the party,” he said. Which was true, they probably could, but we were a community of writers, and planning was not our strong suit.
“Let’s just make it as simple as possible,” I said.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll stay here in my pajamas; you call everyone and tell them to come over with some food.”
That, though it arose from a curmudgeonly heart, is how we got the very successful idea for our “breakfast party.”
The plan was this: take the ingredients that make holidays special (friends, food, conversation, and a dollop of liquor) and package them all in a relaxed and stress-free party environment. This would shift the focus from worrying about preparations to bringing all hands on deck family-style. We also wanted to liven things up with some kitchen fun.
Our main concern was making sure that this party was enjoyable for everybody and did not cause anyone (especially our friends) undue stress. To this end, we decided to have enough food and drinks on hand so the event would be a success whether or not anybody chose to bring a dish (we made this completely optional). We whipped up a large batch of scrambled eggs, two different types of pancakes (my boyfriend is a bit of a foodie and just couldn’t bring himself to buy Bisquick, though that would have worked just as well), and fried up some homemade bacon he had cured earlier in the year (again, the packaged variety would have been just fine).
I was in charge of the drinks and opted for a large batch of mimosas and Irish coffee. Both were incredibly simple to make and also left the option of just plain coffee or orange juice for my teetotaling friends. I also made a small batch of sparkling cider mimosas for the virgin drinkers, which still fizzed enough to be festive and looked quite nice in a champagne flute. All in all, preparation took us just a little over an hour, and we were in our pajamas and sipping mimosas by the time our first guests arrived.
Yes, pajamas. That had been the other stipulation for the party. Everybody was encouraged to show up in the optimum-comfort apparel. I chose a pair of pink flannel pj’s with snowmen frolicking over its fabric, while my boyfriend wore a t-shirt and a pair of scrubs for pants. “I don’t think that’s really pajamas,” I told him. “It’s what I sleep in,” he said. I decided to let it slide.
There was a wide variety of clothing that night, from silky nightgowns and negligées to bathrobes and slippers, but the very nature of our apparel put everyone at ease and gave the celebration a “theme” that set this party well apart from others.
But the real fun came when people moved toward the kitchen and produced their breakfast offerings. As the outfits varied, so did the offerings. Michelle, our New York-bred fashion guru, had actually tried her hand at some homemade blueberry muffins. Lindsay, the traveler of the group, brought out a large saucepan and began making some spiked Mexican hot chocolate. Bonnie, the vegan, made a surprisingly good soy-based French toast dish while Lillie, the chic mother hen of the group, passed out Starbucks pastries for everybody to snack on. Of course, some people did take the easy way out. Six-foot-six ex-football-star-turned-novelist Casey produced a family-sized box of Lucky Charms. This was greeted with a laugh and proved almost as popular as the pastries.
Then I couldn’t get them out of the kitchen. We had set up a lounge-area with a roaring fire in the living room, and opened up the doors to our trendily lit patio, playing some funky music in the background. Although the crowd did, eventually, make its way to these areas (looking like the combination of a crowd from Hef’s mansion and a Rockwell Christmas card), the main draw was still the kitchen. Worried that they might be loitering in that area from a sense of obligation, I used my power as hostess to draw my friends into the other room, place them by the fire, and hand them hot toddies. But invariably catcalls, laughter, or a yelled plea for advice on how to keep an omelet from falling apart would draw them back to the heart of the party—the heart of the house—and I would find my friends there, tucked in snugly next to each other, smiling or chatting, and affectionately mocking whichever chef was up to the plate. Our gathering felt a whole lot like what we had, in fact, become to each other. A mixed up rainbow of a family, that didn’t miss all the hassle of traditions, or a turkey.