It was here in Pennsylvania that I developed the tradition of the ‘After Party’ Party. What, you might ask, is the ‘After Party?’ Well, it is just what it sounds like. It’s the second party, held the day after the Party in Chief (‘PIC’). The ‘After Party’ is held after you clean up the biggest mess of the PIC, but before you tidy up everything and put all your nice things away for the next year or two or five before you throw a really big party again.
Now, you may wonder, whom does one invite to the After Party? Well, that’s very simple. Anyone who couldn’t make it to the Party in Chief or who was not inclined to attend the main event.
For me, the After Party began as a way to invite my friends in the more senior reaches of age, who don’t like to drive at night, and thus, for whom the Party in Chief is not such an attractive option anymore.
In my world, however, this generation used to throw the best Parties in Chief (although they may not have bothered with an After Party). In fact, many of my best party recipes have been bequeathed by them, many of the tips for how to entertain 50-100+ folks came direct-shipped from them, and the all-important advice for how to remain calm in the face of a major party event (a stiff drink before the first guests arrive, natch!) was passed down from them in my early years of learning to give parties.
So, when the Old Guard got to the age that they began to turn down invitations for Parties in Chief, I started to muse on how I could properly even throw a party without having them around for the all-important Party Post Mortem. When I realized I couldn’t possibly have a party without the Party Post Mortem, and that the Party Post Mortem could not be competently accomplished without the insights of the Old Guard, the After Party was born, and the Old Guard of Parties in Chief became the backbone of the After Party circuit.
Thus, in my home at least, the After Party is a daylight affair, sort of a brunch-ish, lunch-ish leftovers feast with all the fixin’s, polished silver, party napkins, and left over glog or soft drinks affair. The After Party is when you can properly conduct a Post Mortem worthy of the Party in Chief and warble over who wore what, who drank too much, who left far too early, and who perhaps a bit too late, although to me the later the hour a party ends, the more certain it was a great success! In short, the After Party at my house has become the sine qua non, the proper finale to the Party in Chief into which you put so much thought, care, and culinary preparation.
Some of you may wonder why one should have an After Party at all. After all, the PIC can be a heck of a lot of work in its own right, and plenty of folks are content to put their feet up the day after and just relax before setting everything back to rights. But, in addition to accommodating a favored crowd who could not make the main event, the After Party helps solve the problem of what to do with large quantities of leftovers.
“No leftovers,” you say? That is, quite frankly, a heretical thought. My family is from the South. Both the patrilineal and matrimonial lines were born and raised in Florida, with Southern roots snaking up into Georgia and all the way back to the House of Burgesses in Virginia centuries ago. So, I know this right down to the marrow of my bones or the stuff of my corpuscles.
In the South, when having a party, one stocks enough food to accommodate platoons of foot soldiers who might wander through on their way to or from some important Civil War battle. I’m not sure why this is. I don’t know whether the warring Union and Confederate forces had time out’s to take in a local party or two between battles. I just know that having ample food, which should actually be rendered AMPLE food, is a genetically prescribed, teleological imperative if you’re from the South.
Otherwise stated, your kitchen is likely overflowing with leftovers. Indeed, the host and hostess have likely not even had a chance to try some of the food laid out for the party, so they will happily munch on leftover biscuits and honey baked, spiral cut ham, slathered with champagne mustard during the After Party with the second set of guests.
And when was your silver polished to quite such a shine … or even polished at all, let’s be real, in today’s world of stainless steel? When did you last bring Aunt Becky’s decorative china dish out of the sideboard cupboard and clean it enough to see the pretty raised flower pattern ringing the pats of butter arranged just so on its gleaming surface?
It makes no sense to put all this away before giving it a second run while the floors are still relatively clean, the tables Endust-ed to a bright luster, and the flowers still upright, lively, and fragrant. After all that work preparing for the Party in Chief, give it a second run for the money. The After Party’s relaxed, casual ambiance is sometimes almost more fun — and certainly less taxing — than the Party in Chief.
But perhaps the most important reason for the After Party is to accommodate that most important rite of party passages, the Party Post Mortem. The Washington Post’s incomparable Style writer and socialite, Sally Quinn, wrote a slender but seminal book, The Party, A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining, that reads like one delightful and self-deprecating Party Post Mortem. It’s a must read if you haven’t already read it. The year it came out, I gave copies to everyone I know who throws a great party as this is an art and a gift that not all possess.
Without the Party Post Mortem, you really can’t gauge how successful a party has been. How else to enjoy (in a post-mortem glow of forgiveness) the fact that one guest actually thought it would be cute to return with Lady Jane Gray’s seven week old kitten, which I rescued from near certain trampling by restoring it to Jane’s sage babysitting care in the office upstairs while the party raged below, until the party-goer left, late in the evening?
How else to giggle over one guest’s alcoholic ways as he kept chugging bottles of costly micro-brew rather than contenting himself with tastings from the modest-sized sampling cups as the brew-meister tried to maintain a sense of order?
How else could Granny, and her partner in Southern drawl and caustic wit, Momma Ruth, otherwise have sufficient time to opine on corollaries between measures of over-weightiness and time spent installed in front of the chafing dish of seafood Newburg and accompanying pastry cups?
In short, how else can you have a party … a proper party, if not with a Party Post Mortem? And what better way to enjoy the Party Post Mortem than surrounded by a core of casual friends, in shirts and jeans, picking at succulent leftovers, in a clean albeit disheveled home that is now happily imprinted with yet another chapter of festivities with friends.