Sometimes I get carried away. When I decided to become a runner, I signed up for a marathon. When I wanted to travel, I moved to South Korea. And when I had a crush on the English guy I met on holiday, I found myself living and working in London. I can’t help it— every now and again, I am overcome with a sense of blind optimism, and a belief in the slightly cheesy notion that ‘when you really want something the whole world conspires to make it happen.’
My most recent over-commitment came in the form of a wedding—my own, to the holiday crush no less—which I decided would be more authentic, more delicious, more beautiful...more better, if I skipped hiring professionals and did everything myself. I lined up a tent, bought some decorations, wrote a ‘thanks but no thanks’ email to the caterers, and then sat back and waited for the big day.
Everything was fine until guests started sending in their RSVPs. That’s when I realised that people really were going to show up, and that they would expect something to happen when they got there. It’s fair to say I began to feel some panic.
The interesting thing about a big event in your life is that you learn who your friends are. Lucky for me, one of my friends is a chef. Dougie flew in from Australia, went shopping with me, and then told everyone to get out of the kitchen while he cooked everything. Yes, everything.
In fact, one of the best parts of the days leading up to the wedding was wandering around the Portland, Maine farmer’s market with Dougie, buying any and everything that looked exciting. Beautiful bunches of flowering dill? We’ll have that. Golden beets the size of two fists? Yes, please! We scooped up punnets of rainbow colored heirloom cherry tomatoes for the canapés, and filled bags with intensely peppery lettuce leaves, several varieties of runner beans, and deep purple potatoes.
On the day, we washed our champagne down with crostini with salmon rillette, heirloom cherry tomato and buffalo mozzarella skewers, and mini jalapeno Johnnycakes with smoked trout. For dinner, we had rainbow beet and lentil salad, asian chicken coleslaw, purple potato salad, homemade pickles, feta and green bean salad, and whole steamed lobsters. We finished the meal off with fruit, local cheeses from Liberty Fields Farm, blueberry and carrot cakes, and ice cream. Oh, and did I mention that Dougie was also the best man, gave a speech with less than 24 hours notice, then partied for the rest of the night like it was 1999? Who the hell IS this guy?
Tom sourced, transported, and cooked the lobsters. My mother-in-law made napkins and table runners. My sister- and brother-in-law hung strings of lights, and their aunt made my dress. Bel made arrangements with the flowers my mother foraged from the edges of the marshland, while a flock of girlfriends put all of the finishing touches on the tables. When there was a mix-up with the servers I’d hired, some cousins jumped in and started running food out from the kitchen.
Perhaps it isn’t the whole world that conspires to make things happen in your life. Maybe it’s just friends, good old fashioned friends, who are willing to muck in and bail you out when you get in over your head. I’ve got some special ones, and I am truly grateful.
Mixed bean and feta salad (inspired by Dougie’s version)
1 lb mixed varieties of runner beans
4 oz feta cheese
juice of 1 lemon
handful chopped parsley
4 T olive oil
handful sliced almonds
salt and pepper
Top and tail the beans and then blanch for about 3 minutes in boiling water. Don’t overdo it, you want them to keep their bite. Drain the beans and run under cold water to stop the cooking, and then set aside.
In a salad bowl, mash the lemon juice, oil, and feta together with the back of a fork to make a kind of chunky dressing. Mix in the beans, parsley, and almonds, and season to taste with salt and pepper.