Here in lies the woeful tale of two hostesses. The one I aspire to be and the one I really am.
A little melodramatic – but accurate.
I am so dedicated to the art of detail that more than once I have planned an event a year in advance. Attention to detail is the military mantra that we live by (and we like it that way). But, the truth is, when entertaining one can never truly prepare for everything.
Case in point – each duty station we move to is known for things. Those things can be good or bad. Things that are pretty and ugly. Things that frankly, you don’t know about until you get there and experience it firsthand.
Enter stage right – sunny Southern California, an American paradise.
One finds the happy locals in their athleisure wear, strolling from Starbucks, yoga mat in hand. There is sea, surf, blue skies… and ants.
Now, not all of my homes in SoCal had an ant problem, but one in particular did. And when I say problem – think full-scale ant invasion.
I noticed right away that a speck of cheese or a crumb of cookie would bring on the following morning an army of indescribable proportions. My dining room looked like an arthropod convention on the Discovery Channel. I addressed the problem immediately (borax, Raid, napalm) and thought nothing else of it.
Time to plan the next party, and plan I did.
Our Marines were on deployment. In true military spouse fashion; our squadron wives were hosting a Pity Party for the squadron wives whose Marines were replacing ours. Side note – a Pity Party is an opportunity to basically say, “ha ha we are done, and now you it is your turn to suffer. Enjoy”. We also eat our young in case you were wondering…
The invites were launched, the house was ready, and the spouses brought an amazing array of potluck items including the piece de resistance: a delicious ham. Spiral cut, studded with cloves and dripping with a sugary glaze. If it weren’t early May I would have guessed it to be December 25.
With the evening well under way, I poured a cocktail with an air of smug satisfaction. “Yes” I thought, “another successful event.”
In an unguarded moment, I felt a sharp tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see one of our go to spouses (you know the one – she can be counted on for anything and everything) with a look of fear on her face. I immediately stood up. She leaned forward and quietly whispered, “We have a code red meat emergency.”
Like any good senior leader’s spouse I confidently said, “Take me to the meat.”
As a host or hostess, we should never allow our guests to see us ruffled. In the worst situations, we remain calm, polite and patient. As my husband says, “never let them see you sweat.” But, I must say, what I saw next almost put me over the edge.
My ever vigilant friend had her arm outstretched with a pointed finger much like the ghost of Christmas future as he eerily points to Scrooge’s tombstone. I followed the length of her arm and my eyes landed on the ham.
Is the glaze moving?
ANTS. ANTS EVERYWHERE.
Is that one carrying a clove on his back? Why ants? Does the Ritz get ants? Does Ina Garten invite ants to dinner with Jeffrey? This isn’t supposed to happen – I did not plan for ants!
I like to think I am cool under pressure, but I am not. I immediately grabbed the ham and ran like a wide receiver crossing the goal line quickly spiking the ham into the kitchen trashcan. In a flash, amazing spouses were scurrying for any remnant of insect. It was an ant-killing Seal Team 6.
The determination was made that the ants were meat eaters and had confined themselves only to the gammon. Thankfully, the food service had been going for a while and it appeared that we had simply removed a few things. The buffet was spotless and open for business.
I stood there for a moment and became rather frustrated. What made me think the ants were going to self-relegate? Why did I assume that they had come together prior to my event and agreed to not transgress the buffet table? The ants were truly an ongoing problem and I should have planned the placement of my food better.
Let’s put a bow on this sad tale with some entertaining tie-ins.
- Know the problem areas in your house whether it is in military quarters or a rental.
- Don’t fight the issues, just adjust accordingly.
- Always have your power team of spouses. The ones you can rely on to help. In turn make sure you are there for them as well when they host an event.
- Don’t become emotional or excited in front of your guests and if something is amiss with your food simply remove it. Due to the fact that there were so many wonderful offerings on the buffet, the removal of the ham was not a huge issue.
- Be in the habit of having a few easily prepared items in your freezer just in case of a culinary emergency. It is always a wonderful thing when we can prepare a fresh, homemade menu but sometimes you need a little back up.
But always, always remember: you can fix any situation – even arthropod WWIII.