Parties. There’s a reason we love them, look forward to them, and use them to mark the big occasions in our lives. There’s nothing as special to me as the positive energy of human connection and the spark of a conversation—all surrounding that cheese plate, of course. And while I’ll never say no to dancing into the night or throwing an elaborate birthday bash, I’ve come to realize that a party should be less of an actual event and more of a mindset. If you’re in the mood to celebrate life, anything can be a party.
The word party
, to me, is very personal. It’s when you can literally be “a part” of something. You can throw a party for one, relaxing after a long day with your favorite wedge of soft-ripened goat cheese and a dollop of fruit preserves. A party for two can be a date night, or lunch with a friend. A party could happen outdoors in the garden, with fresh-picked produce and local cheeses, or it could be on the stoop of your apartment building, with grocery-store finds and wine in paper cups. No matter the size, occasion, or setting, it’s all about the intention behind the gathering. Parties ignite joy, connection, and conversation.
As you might have guessed, food is by far my favorite element of any party. I love how food always tells a story. Cheese, the foundation of every cheese plate, has a rich, vast history while also inspiring strong personal feelings. Some people love the bite of blue cheese, and some hate it. You might still remember a particularly delicious caprese sandwich you once had, and every time you eat fresh, creamy mozzarella you think about where you were when you ate that sandwich, whom “you were with, and how good it tasted. Your feelings on any particular cheese could be as simple as “I like it,” but even that shows a glimpse of who you are. Cheese plates ignite the senses, open doors for interactions, and can settle you into a self-care mood.
You might be familiar with the Cheese By Numbers method, which I created to help simplify the plating process. We break the cheese plate down into six steps: cheese, meat, produce, crunch, dip, and garnish. This method helps you slow down and take the guesswork out of what can look like an intimidating creation, so you can have fun and appreciate the art of charcuterie and cheese.
Ironically, publishing my first cookbook was the opposite of slowing down. I found myself constantly in the kitchen, planning events and creating content around the clock. Because of an unforeseen pandemic (spoiler alert), everything came to a screeching halt. Suddenly, parties were canceled, and everything that was once communal and in-person became individual and online. During this difficult time, I tried to shift my focus to what was important—the very things I had been neglecting while using busywork as a distraction. I truly connected with my community on social media, hosting cheese plate happy hours on Instagram and sharing plate ideas to make at home. I then moved into my first apartment by myself, as a single gal in her late twenties, and finally learned to love my alone time. I also realized how precious time spent with friends and family could be, and cherished being together, whatever form that took. I immersed myself in nature, learning to grow my own garnishes for my plate creations and using my senses to explore the world around me. After this period of isolation and introspection, I was ready to look at the world through a new lens. I never again want to take for granted the beauty of bringing people together. The energy of togetherness should be celebrated.
This book is about turning self-care communal: celebrating the people around us and using the food we put on the table to tell our stories. We’ll start with single-serve and small plate ideas, then build to the luxury grazing tables to impress the guests. We’ll make themed plates, delicious recipes, and cocktails. We’ll even learn how to match the colors of our tablescapes and floral arrangements to our culinary creations. Cheers to a new chapter. After all: That cheese plate wants to party!
Copyright © 2023 by Marissa Mullen; Illustrated by Sara Gilanchi. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.