An impromptu birthday party started without the celebrant

Totally unplanned. A surprise, you might say. Last Wednesday was the birthday of my Japanese friend that I shall call M. We intended to celebrate with lunch by the lakeside two weekends from now, when our Chinese friend, whom I shall call Y, returns from her Seattle trip. However that day, unknown to me, Y decided to pick up a lemon cake from the bakery and set it on my dining room table for M who was coming later that night. And unknown to Y, from the farmer’s market, I picked up some big red strawberries and plump figs which I arranged on an orange plate set beside Y’s lemon cake. A simple, surprise celebration was quickly concocted that night. Though that was far from our intent, we just went with the flow.

Y decided to whip up some soup recipe of rice noodles and large bok choy (leafy cabbage). After setting the delectables on the table, ready for M, I thought of practicing my newly learned skill of taking pictures with my smart phone (Y taught me how). Then I emailed the pictures to my laptop for me to post on my website.

Voila! The email attachment was sent, and the photo was stored on my laptop — a great feat for this Lola who’s always happy to learn new technology (my nine-year-old grandson may find this funny; he creates short films on his iPod). There’s beauty in simplicity, I always maintain. Just look at this picture – isn’t there beauty in this simple surprise birthday dinner?

While waiting for M, the soup got cold. Because Y and I were both starving, we decided to commence with the celebratory eating without the celebrant. This simple surprise party was going nowhere. But something was going aomewhere – down through our throats and to our gastro. Y and I gulped down the noodle and vegetable soup like it was the best thing in the world. It was the best thing in the world at that moment when we were starved. I closed my eyes to intensify the savoring of the mildly spiced broth, a quirk I indulge in when food in my mouth tastes divine. Y slurped on the noodles. In some cultures, that is the polite thing to do to show appreciative enjoyment of the food. I tried to join in the slurping, just a tad quieter. That party was getting to be strangely fun.

Finally, M came, surprised to see unexpected dinner waiting for her on the table. Remember, we all agreed to celebrate two weekends from Wednesday. Well. we could repeat the celebration with sandwiches at the lakeside deli as planned, I promised.

Surprise birthday parties never get old, as I noted in an early blog, when my sister gave me one. The difference with M’s simple fete is that the party givers ate without the celebrant, because at 8:30 p.m., our growling stomachs did the urging. But hey, at least we waited for M to come before we touched the desserts – moist lemon cheese cake with buttery cream on top, big, shiny dark red strawberries and plump purple figs tauntingly staring at us (or were we staring at them?).

M happily ate half of her soup, looked at Y and me and decided to start cutting her cake. Our looks must have given us away.

Seeing M’s happy face that night, we felt gratified about celebrating with a small, simple, impromptu, silly but fun party. But guess what … we forgot to sing “Happy Birthday”!

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