This would have been a handy book to have this time last year when I was finalizing our wedding food (facebook has reminded me that I made over 100 scones on the 11th of June 2022), reading it today, the hottest day of the year so far, has made me extremely nostalgic for the halcyon couple of weeks I took off work beforehand so that we could do the food ourselves. It was a small wedding and I have a family full of catering experience so with the help of my mother, sisters, and stepmother it was more or less a breeze. I'm also nostalgic for the actual breeze and relatively cool temperatures of Scotland in June.
It's not just the recipes in Kate Young's The Little Library Parties that have thrown me back to those lovely weeks, it's the way she talks about food and parties. My childhood in Shetland is very different to hers in Australia, the outdoors culture isn't the same, but when the weather is good up there you do make the most of it, and the very long summer days have their own magic. I have great memories of catching and eating mackerel - sometimes over a fire of driftwood on the beach, and drinking champagne wrapped up in coats and scarves at midnight on midsummer's eve with the sun scarcely set.
There's a good mix of recipes here for formal and informal entertaining, with more of an emphasis on the informal. The secret of any successful party is in the planning. It doesn't need to be elaborate, you just need to know you've got the bases covered - although if it is elaborate the planning has to go up the corresponding notches.
The thing with Kate Young though is that it's never just about the food. There's the expected literary inspiration here, and a good bit of memoir - this is a book you can happily sit and read; it's what I spent most of this morning doing, never cook a thing from it, and still feel like you'd had excellent value for money. 'Parties' is also unique amongst The Little Library Titles in that it came out last August when Covid and the summers of lockdown were still very close. There's a vein of nostalgia for a pre covid world alongside hope for a return to sociability.
I feel that myself, despite not being a natural joiner in, or maybe because of it, it all seems a bit harder now. More of a commitment to get people together. So many of my friends are now navigating long-term illness, and there are gaps too in the guest lists of a few years ago. I think I need to have a tea party and cheer up. And the memories of last year are definitely working their magic as well.