I used to have an annual Boxing Day party at my house, mostly back when I had someone from Across the Pond living under my roof. Being as he was of Foreign Persuasion and in his country it was an actual recognized National Holiday it only made sense that we should recognize it in this country, too. Or at least in our own household. Although not a religious or nationally-recognized holiday in this country, I nonetheless felt justified in recognizing it and throwing a party in honor of the Day After Christmas.
Time passed and the Foreign Person no longer used my address to receive his mail and I found myself without a good excuse to throw a Boxing Day party except for the fact that the ones in years past had been very popular with our British and Anglophile friends. So I just kept having the party, albeit not every year. This year Paco and I decided to stay in town for the holidays and thus the idea of having a Boxing Day party seemed like a sound move. I designed and sent out a clever invitation addressed to our nearest and dearest and then began a three-week massive overhaul of our house: carpets professionally cleaned, furniture cleaned and spruced up by Paco and me (don’t try cleaning linen furniture yourself, BTW), heavy silver polished and food and wine bought in liberal amounts. I also borrowed some additional serving items from Sister K, chief among them two very nice silver chafing dishes in which to serve the (homemade) Vegetarian Curry and Basmati Rice.
Boxing Day dawned bright, if unseasonably warm, and slightly after the appointed start time our guests began to arrive. We had lots of folks show up, many of whom eventually migrated to our deck to escape the growing line crowded around the dining table. Luckily, Paco and I happened to both be standing next to the said table at the same time, along with a few other guests not already outside eating and drinking. Suddenly, and totally without warning, the Denatured Alcohol warming one of the chafing dishes decided at that moment to boil over, engulfing the dish in flames and spreading to the linen table cloth underneath. Just like one of those movies where everyone is watching something horrific happen as if in slow motion, we all stood there, frozen in our spots as the flames shot upwards and the entire contents of the chafing dish started to burn. Since I had not bothered to replace the kitchen fire extinguisher since the last time it was needed (I will save that for another posting) we had nothing to douse the flames until Paco finally yelled for a wet cloth. I ran into the kitchen, flames starting to spread to the table itself, grabbed a tea towel, ran it under the faucet and threw it to him in time for the flames to be extinguished. The flames were so intense, however, that they actually melted the soldering on one of the legs of the chafing dish frame and the entire thing collapsed into a heap, spilling curry everywhere and necessitating Paco bravely picking the entire mess up and throwing it from the deck, much to our horror. At that point everyone stood there in complete shock, me wondering what damage had been done to the dining table and starting the “well, it could have been worse” self-talk. It surely could have been worse, as in the entire dining room, if not the rest of the house, ending up on the 10 o-clock news that evening: “House burns to ground in Vegetarian Curry Drama”.
The damage proved to be less than at first thought, albeit Sister K’s chafing dish is in the shop, her linen tablecloth ruined. Fortunately, she had the forethought to place a table pad underneath the table cloth so even though both burned completely through, the table only bares the scars of a slight singe and will probably provide countless hours of retelling the great Boxing Day Fire. Ironically, the person in who’s honor the party was so many years ago thrown was not present to witness the drama. Good thing, as I would never have heard the end of it. Of the many possession over which we argued when we parted ways, the dining table was chief among them. The house could have burned to the ground but I would have been expected to somehow save the table.
On second thought, maybe I should have let that frappin'table burn to a crisp out of pure spite.