In Carol Shields’s fictional worlds, dinner parties are transformational. People assume their “party selves,” she once wrote, that party-self being a more sociable, lighter version of your everyday personality. (“Parties” 45) Sadly, this positive renewal is not the experience of Dot Weller, wife of Stu Weller and mother to Larry Weller in Shields’s novel Larry’s Party.
For Dot, even casual family get-togethers cause copious perspiration and “jittery detachment”. (Larry’s 44) Her parties are haunted by “the poison of memory” (44)— a summer dinner that she hosted for her in-laws back in England and that sealed her fate and “exodus” to Canada. (52) Dot’s canned beans were to blame.
As longtime readers may have noted, Shelley and I do not share a time zone. We trade recipes, reading lists, and wise saws over the Interweb, and every so often we have a chance to share a meal. This time ’round, as Shelley edged away from the west coast and stopped in on an island in the St. Lawrence, we met in view of putting together a post.
We shopped, we cooked, we took photographs, and then we ate. The results of this collaboration are as follows. First, we concluded that “Wild Mushroom Toasts with Goat Cheese & Black Garlic Vinaigrette” are indeed as marvelous as they sound.