The Remains Of the Day
New York Times, The (NY) - Wednesday, November 25, 2009 Author/Byline: JANE SIGAL Edition: Late Edition - Final Section: Dining In, Dining Out / Style Desk Page: 1 Page Column: 0 Page Subsection: D Abstract: Sue Maden's post- Thanksgiving party is highly prized invitation in Jamestown, RI; she began what has become annual tradition after she was widowed in 1999 and wanted to thank friends for their kindness while she was grieving; recipes; photos (M) SUE MADEN was peeling and slicing apples for the double-crusted pie she planned to take as her contribution to dinner at a friend's house, but a worry was nagging her. "Do I have to confess that I bought the pie crusts already made and rolled up?" she asked. Ms. Maden is just not that interested in cooking, she admitted. Yet she hosts an annual dinner party that is one of the most sought-after invitations in Jamestown, R.I., a small island town (around 5,000 people and one traffic light) in Narragansett Bay. For the last 10 years, she has held a Thanksgiving leftovers potluck on the Saturday after the holiday. Blair Boyer, an equity portfolio manager in New York who summered in Jamestown as a boy in the '60s and now has his own house there, is one of the aspirants this year. "I'm hoping Sue invites us, that we make the cut," Mr. Boyer said. "I hope it's not so crowded we can't go." Mr. Boyer thought he might add "a new viticultural element" to the gathering. He ticked off the possibilities: "A Moulin-a-Vent. Goes with candied yam. Maybe a Gevrey-Chambertin. CrozesHermitage or Gigondas." Ms. Maden joked that what Mr. Boyer really needed to do was invite her to his house for dinner . The "Save the Best for Last" party has taken place every November since 1999, the year after Ms. Maden's husband, Phil, died. He was the cook in their house, she explained. Suddenly, she found herself racking up debts to the many friends who had her over for dinner . It was a social quandary many singles face: How do you reciprocate if you don't cook? Taking everyone to a restaurant or hiring a caterer might have been options in flashy Newport across the Claiborne Pell Bridge, but not in Jamestown, with its Quaker restraint. "Also, I was born in 1934," Ms. Maden said. "Spending money is an issue. It's Depression mentality."
With the holidays approaching, she hit on the potluck idea. Some guests brought leftovers, some used leftovers to make something new and some began from scratch. Today, Jamestowners save the date. "People would probably show up even if I canceled the party and didn't send out invitations," Ms. Maden said. Ms. Maden invites friends from her two book clubs, her two movie clubs, the Quononoquott Garden Club, The Jamestown Press (she writes a weekly column on island history) and the Jamestown Historical Society (she is the chairwoman of the collections committee). The final count regularly tops 65. "Sue's party is such a relief," said Rita Reamer, a Russian-born former stage designer from Boston with a weekend retreat in Jamestown. "By Saturday I'm exhausted. My Russian friends never celebrate Thanksgiving and they're happy because I celebrate. It gets pretty crazy." To eliminate the back and forth of orchestrating a menu with more than 45 cooks, Ms. Maden declined from the start to give food assignments. "I decided I was not going to control it," she said. "It's like having leftovers. It's what's in the refrigerator. I felt like I didn't have to worry about whether people had a balanced meal or not." The range of what turns up is vast. Some guests bring corn bread stuffing remnants. Dick and Joyce Allphin always arrive with an overflowing bowl of shrimp and cocktail sauce. (They are locals but celebrate Thanksgiving in West Virginia, so they don't have leftovers.) Gravy is a rare commodity. Rosemary Enright, the president of the Jamestown Historical Society, who is writing a history of the town with Ms. Maden, can usually be counted on for cranberry sauce...
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