Seasons by the Sea: Pass the Butter, Girlfriend

What is it about a gathering of good friends getting together to eat and drink and talk that is so fun and so vital?
On the menu for “girls night in”: crudites, hummus, cheese and fruit, smoked salmon spread, pigs in a blanket, shrimp, dolmades, or any other finger food, the naughtier the better. Matthew Andersen

    Winter’s a ‘comin’, the days are darkening early, what to do? Girls nights! Gentlemen, you can turn straight to Jack Graves’s sports page or reread the police blotter, this column is not for you. It is for me and my girlfriends.

    What is it about a gathering of good friends getting together to eat and drink and talk that is so fun and so vital? And I’m not talking about a night out on the town with your gal pals or a weekend in Vegas. I’m talking about a gaggle of friends at home, eating junk food, playing cards, talking about books, work, life, whatever. This kind of activity is restorative for us.

    I grew up with two brothers and no sisters. Hence I was a tomboy and hung out with my brother’s friends. They were so easy, so black and white. It was “Let’s go find some M-80s and blow stuff up down by the pond,” not “I’m not sure if Susie likes me, she’s acting all weird and is hanging out with Molly more than me, do you think it’s because I talked to her boyfriend, Jocko?” By high school, I recognized the ultimate and infinite value of female friendship.

    Once we are adults and are busy with families and work, the time we spend with our girlfriends becomes that much more important. Some of my friends have book groups, but I know for a fact these books are often dense and dull and some of you don’t even read them! Some friends have game nights, with card games, Bunco, Scrabble. But really, it all comes down to the eating, drinking, conversation, and company.

    My friend Amanda gets together with her fellow alumni from a documentary they worked on together years ago. They “eat hummus and pita, crudites, cheese and fruit, pate, dolmades . . . drink wine, generally, although we’ve been known to make margaritas or martinis. We talk, catch up on news and gossip, compare notes on films and books we like. . .and play charades,” she said. “That’s the best part, I love charades.”

    Judiann gets together with her “Scrabble bitches” once a month. “Aside from our very competitive games, we eat some pretty amazing fare. . . . Just last week Nicolette prepared the most incredible boeuf bourgignon served with rice and roasted vegetables made in true French style. The month before it was another amazing meal of grilled meats, sauteed kale and spinach and some other amazing tidbits,” she wrote. “We are talking gourmet Scrabble!”

    Ellen’s groups starts with wine and/or martinis or rum punches depending on the season. “Lots of hors d’oeuvres, pimento cheese, hot artichoke dip, bacon wrapped breadsticks, smoked salmon spread, pigs in a blanket, anything normally naughty and off limits . . . and cards, bridge, or Wizard. As the evening progresses . . . lots of talking and a lot less cards.” She also tried something once called Reuben dip, recipe to follow.

    To make it easy for whoever is hosting, make it a potluck or just serve appetizers. You can make it a movie night, a pampering spa night, D.I.Y. pizzas, or a book swap. Serve Cosmos and cupcakes. Have a wine tasting. How about cheese or chocolate fondue? Counting calories over fondue is a fondon’t.

    A University of California, Los Angeles study conducted in 2002 found that girlfriends are stress-busters and have an impact on our overall mood. Women with a lot of female friendships live longer. A Harvard University Nurses Health study found that “not having regular contact with girlfriends was as detrimental as smoking or gaining weight.” Pass the Reuben dip, girlfriend!

    Again, I hope the gents aren’t reading this because it is a scientific fact that the life expectancies for men are shorter than for women. Our women friends become a very important source of social support.

    We know our children and families and doggies and friends and husbands and lovers adore us. Our bosses rely on us and the house doesn’t clean itself. But sometimes we just need to be ourselves, laugh, kick back, and know we are loved and appreciated among friends, friends who don’t mind that you’re entertaining in your Uggs and there’s a speck of dolmades grape leaf stuck on your teeth. Our girlfriends are a mirror of ourselves. I like what I see.

    As a final note to all the dudes who couldn’t resist putting in their two cents worth on Facebook: No, Doug, you can’t photograph us, and thank you, Jimmy, for your menu suggestion of dripping brisket sandwiches on foot-long hoagies with dark stout ale followed by Cohibas. I think we’ll stick with your wife’s awesome corn chowder!

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