The Dumpster: Party Time
“OOOOH, mints mints mints-mints-mints!” squealed the 40-ish lady in the frilly lavender dress. “I just love these wedding mints! I can’t stop eating them!” That was the truth. She devoured all the sugary green mints which had been carefully placed as party favors in front of her chair. Then she moved on to another chair and ate those mints too, continuing from seat to seat like a locust until her sweater was dusted in sparkles and she quivered from joy and insulin overload.
“You can buy those at the grocery store,” I said. “Three dollars for a whole box of them.”
“Oh, I know,” she said with a flip of her hand. “But these mints are just for weddings. You’re not supposed to eat them by yourself.”
She has a point. They’re not called “TV Mints,” or “Green Sugar-frosted Mints.” They’re “Wedding Mints.”
Mints are members of a weird food group we only eat at parties. These sugary, cream-cheesy mints—white, green and bloody red—are often wrapped in gauzy twill and given away at Christmas, to friends who quickly pass the frilly package on to someone else, repeating the process until the mints have gathered too much travel lint to look edible. But of course we don’t want to eat them. We hate weddings.
In contrast, we secretly, way down in our little hidden hearts, squee with glee when we encounter those little cocktail weenies floating in a watery bath of barbecue sauce, lukewarm in a candlelit chafing dish. Again, you’re free to cook these at home. You could fill a cereal bowl full of them and park yourself in front of Game of Thrones for a night of salty ecstasy, but you don’t. Mini weenies are only for parties, inevitably parked in front of a gaunt young caterer’s assistant who’s wearing a white button shirt with black vest and matching dyed hair and can’t stop herself from saying, “I don’t eat those. I’m vegan.”
Same with those rolled up cream cheese tacos—pinwheels, I think they’re called, even though they’re so heavy Hurricane Andrew couldn’t spin one. We sidle up to the party table, casually chatting while we eat one after another until we’ve consumed a brick’s worth of cream cheese while saying, “Oh, no, I’m not hungry. I’ll just pick.”
Where else but at a wedding do you eat mixed nuts with a spoon?
Where else but at a party do you see M&Ms in popcorn? Or cheeseburgers so wee you could tuck one into your shirt pocket, which is where the mustard will end up anyway?
Do you make punch at home? Of course you don’t, because you care what you drink. But for a party you’ll Mix cheap Popov vodka with two cans of plain label fruit juice and a two-liter bottle of Sprite and get fifteen people drunk for $8 total. There’s just something festive about ladling pink mystery booze into a Solo cup.
What’s fun about little ham salad sandwiches cut in white bread circles? Because that’s exactly how we wanted to eat those when we were six years old. “Mom, would you please cut the crust off my baloney and cheese sandwich?”
“No. The crust is the best part. It’s good for you. Eat it.” But get married and your mom will prepare a whole tray of hand-carved, crustless little white bread sandwiches just to mock your new bride. We see those at a party and the child inside us leaps like John the Baptist.
On the host side, parties are a perfect opportunity to go all-out with your cooking experimentation. Our New Year’s Eve menu last year started with six bricks of butter, a pound of pastry dough, various foofy cheeses, and cured meats made from only the finest ears and lips. If the calories don’t kill you, a toothpick stuck in the throat will.
We don’t eat like that every day because we don’t want to die. But apparently we don’t care whether your new year starts with a heart attack on January 1. The fact is, we look skinnier if you look fatter. Have another cream-puff?
Michael Campbell is a regular humor columnist for Food & Spirits Magazine, where his “Dumpster” essays close every issue. His first book, Are You Going To Eat That, is a collection of 60 essays released in 2009. His off-beat observations have appeared in Reader’s Digest, and he was recently named Humor Writer of The Month by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Campbell is also a singer-songwriter known for purposeful melody and evocative storytelling in the likes of Marshall Crenshaw, Paul Simon and James Taylor. His newest album is due for release in fall 2014. michaelcampbellsongwriter.com His mom is still waiting for him to get a real job.
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