Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Powers of two

It's funny, because I'm a huge gossip, and I don't think anyone would say that I have a poker face, but somehow I've gotten pretty good at throwing surprise parties.  It's fun.  There are little tricks, like making sure that the e-mails you send out have innocuous titles.  It's like a puzzle you have to fit together.  With whom do you conspire?  Where do you hold the party?  How do you keep the guest of honor out of there until the awaited hour?  When do you bake the cake?  Where do you store everything?  How do you decorate?  It's like the game of Clue, except you're the murderer.

Jeff has the easiest birthday to remember, at least from the perspective of an MIT alumnus, so it seems to me almost criminal not to celebrate it (despite his many protests every year).  And apparently, he's also one of the easiest people to target with a surprise party, because he has so many friends who immediately climbed on board with my ridiculous-sounding idea of a Surprise Macaroni-and-Cheese Bakeoff.  That's right.  OK friends, all you need to do to celebrate Jeff's birthday is spend your entire weekend baking mac 'n' cheese, then show up at my house between 3 PM and 5 PM on Sunday afternoon.  To be honest, I laid out some pretty specific instructions.  But Jeff's friendship is so valuable that no fewer than 20 people were convinced to take part!  Maybe they knew that if they didn't comply, I'd be waiting in the conservatory with a lead pipe.

With the rest of the plans underway, and a spare set of keys surreptitiously handed off to Chelsea, all that was necessary was to get Jeff out of the house for a few hours. That was probably the easiest part--hey, on Sunday afternoon let's go get cocktails at 15 Romolo.  Even this excursion went much better than I could have imagined, with the bartender comping us a pair of Remember the Maine cocktails, and a like-new game of Taboo turning up at a thrift store for only $3.50 ("Hey, some people are late, can you stall Jeff for another 30 minutes?")

We returned to an apartment full of streamers, balloons, noisemakers, party hats, and a mind-boggling assortment of macaronis and cheeses from around the world.  Honestly, even I was pretty surprised by the extent to which Chelsea and company had decked the place out, as well as the complexity of their dishes (wrapped in prosciutto and daubed with truffle oil). So I can only imagine Jeff absorbing all of that at the same time as what the hell are these people doing in my house

Dishes were tasted, followed by judgment, a yodeling pickle was awarded, and then we brought out a chocolate cake with sprinkles.  If I had to make any adjustments for the next surprise party I throw, I'd just make sure that I don't get saddled with this much  delicious leftover mac 'n' cheese again, because now I weigh 486 pounds.


  1. This is the most fabulous idea for a surprise bday party I've ever heard of! And please, send me all your leftover mac n' cheese.

    1. Somehow we managed to finish it all in only four nights (I feel sick to my stomach just typing that)! I should have taken a picture of the grilled mac 'n' cheese sandwich Jeff made on Monday (ditto).