What turns a goodbye party into a happy party

Wonder why goodbye parties become happy parties?

Within a week of each other, I attended interesting and fun (but supposedly goodbye) parties. One was for a retiree; the other, for someone moving to another state. The gatherings were graced with delicious food, lively conversation, incessant chatter and spiced with lighthearted jokes and teasing. All the necessary ingredients for a great party, the kind that after all the consumption and laughter, you come away declaring – hmmm, that was so much fun.

Ironical, isn’t it, that supposedly the gathering is for “mourning” the loss of one whose company you had learned to appreciate – as one retiring or moving away. Yet, the goodbyes turn out to be moments of merrymaking. Amazing that during the party for the honoree, no tears are shed, just joyous reminiscing. The gathering morphs into a delectable journey through memory lane. And believe me, the memories tend to be all so funny.

Remember, these are goodbye parties, so why laughter instead of tears? Why merriment and not sorrow? Maybe because we’re making new memories – happy, funny and worth remembering. Maybe because these sessions aren’t really for farewell. Hope is strong that someday, our paths will cross again. Maybe because in the company of many, we deny the tears that we reserve for private moments. Maybe because the gathering celebrates the role the honoree played in our lives, in both professional and social settings. The gathering becomes thus an elaborate “Thank You”. Yet, regardless of how much gaiety flavors the party, nostalgia settles in after the party. Then pops the realization – it really could be goodbye.

Let me tell you about the food at the earlier event. It was at a Korean place in Palo Alto, known for its spicy tofu and meat faire. I ordered soup and asked for mildly hot. I was assured that it was mild, but it turned to to be  one of the pepper-hottest dish I had ever eaten. To be able to eat it, I poured all the rice in the small metal bowl into the soup, hoping to diminish some of the spice. It did somewhat, but I ridiculously wished I could find a “fire extinguisher” for my mouth somewhere in the restaurant. Nonetheless, I ate a fourth of my food. I took it home, cooked it in a pot and added two glasses of water to the mixture before boiling. Guess what! The new version of the soup dish was surprisingly awesome. The seafood flavor didn’t vanish in the mix of rice, vegetables, shrimps and tofu. It no longer was extremely spicy hot, just mildly, just the way I wanted it in the first place. The lesson is — when you’re not pleased with what you ordered, take it home and give it a “facelift”. The revamped version might surprise you, as it did to me. You guessed right — I gobbled it up.

The second gathering was held in an Indian-Pakistani restaurant in Palo Alto. As always, the place was crowded, and the ordering line was super long. But one waiter offered his service solely to our group of 10 who claimed a long table in a cozy corner by the entrance. This arrangement of dedicated service was perfect, since the ordering line continued to grow from 11:30 a.m., the time the restaurant opened.

Our honoree took responsibility for choosing the food items, since he had eaten at that place several times before – and he’s Indian. a confirmed  expert on Indian cuisine. All the dishes were mildly spiced – to my liking. I knew that most in our group were hot spice eaters, but they were content with the food as well. I especially enjoyed the nan dipped in beef flavored sauce. The yellow curried basmati rice eaten with either the grilled beef and onion dish or the chicken dish was superb. Then there was the diced cucumber and tomato salad that mixed well with the spinach side dish. And not to forget – the vegetable and meat samosas that teased our palates as we waited for the main entrées. I’m definitely going back there. That party was my third time at that restaurant. It didn’t disappoint. Especially because I didn’t have to stand in a long line. Our dedicated waiter rendered quick and efficient service.

Excellent service, in any eatery, is a third of why anyone enjoys the restaurant experience – the other two elements are food and company. But if I were to pick the best ingredient for a happy party – I’d say, the people. Despite my being a “foodie”, people rank high on my check list. They really are what make a great party.

And the sad goodbyes? Usually they happen after the “going away” party.

Linda P. Jacob

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