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The Party

(by Elizabeth Anderson)

It is October of 1980, and my two college roommates and I are hosting a party in our new apartment on West 13th Street, an ugly, pre-furnished box in a three-story square brick building on the southern edge of Ohio State’s campus in Columbus. No matter how many plants we prop on windowsills or posters we hang on flat white walls, the apartment’s low ceilings, linoleum floors, and stained industrial carpet maintain its depressingly lackluster aura. But on this night, the night of our first party in the apartment, we will put on our makeup, style our feathered hair, and squeeze into our tightest jeans in anticipation of flirtation, sex, or, if we are lucky, love. Inevitably one of us will dance on the coffee table to “Brick House” by The Commodores. All of us will drink too much.


I want to call my mother the morning of the party to ask her for her hot crabmeat dip recipe, the one she made for all my parents’ parties when I was growing up, when a bunch of adults would mingle in the sunken living room of our ranch house drinking liquor and eating hors d'oeuvres while speaking of their travels, the Vietnam War, and the travesty of inflation. My mother would place an avocado green runner on top of our five-foot-long wooden stereo console to use as a bar. She’d arrange small tables around the room placing bowls of toothpicks with colored frills and fanned Hallmark cocktail napkins illustrated with a martini glass and a stuffed green olive on top of these collapsible rectangles. Then she’d arrange an assortment of packaged treats from jars or cans, like sweet pickled watermelon rinds, salted Virginia peanuts, black pitted olives. There’d be several containers of sharp cheddar-like cheese that came in brown crock pots with locking bail wire lids. She'd put rounded butter knives next to the tubs along with napkin-lined baskets filled with Ritz crackers.


The piece de resistance, however, was the hot crabmeat dip, a casserole that seemed uniquely American with its decadent blend of mayonnaise, cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and onion flakes, and melted cheddar cheese covering the top, a burnt orange crust lining the edges. My mother would cut up thin slices of dark brown bread on an oval plate to place alongside the dip. And extra napkins.

Unlike the other food, this dip seemed custom-made to absorb alcohol. Men in suits and women in slacks or short skirts, hair teased, stood talking, their conversations filling the room in a cacophonous din that floated above them as they mingled, a highball glass in one hand, a cigarette in the other. This delicate balancing act appeared to come naturally to the partygoers on those nights. And my mother, the most beautiful woman there, would light up the room with her charm. When I was sent to bed at 9 p.m. I would sometimes take out my cassette recorder to tape the sound of people at a party so I could listen to it another time when I wanted to recall the excitement of those nights.


I am dreaming of the crabmeat dip, and I am missing my mother. Or is it that I want her to think that I miss her? The truth is I don’t know if my mother is as happy at home without me. Who makes her laugh now? I imagine her vicarious pleasure when I tell her about the party. “What are you going to wear?” she will ask. “Oh, I love that blouse,” she'll say. “You look sexy in it.” 


I want her to magically appear into the apartment where she could make the hot crabmeat dip with just the right amount of lemon juice. She'd make it early, wrap it in foil, and put it into the oven just before the peak number of guests would arrive, maybe around 9 p.m., so that the cheese would bubble like orange lava above the chunky hot crabmeat chunks embedded in the tangy cream cheese and mayo mixture.


My mother would provide the hospitality, and I would make her laugh when, at midnight, after one too many specially made grain alcohol drinks, I would jump onto the coffee table to dance to Bruce Springsteen as he sings, “Rosalita, jump a little higher!” And we would be like friends at the party, best friends.


Elizabeth Anderson is a psychotherapist, writer, and food lover who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Crabmeat Dip


2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature

2 c. grated cheddar cheese, plus additional for topping

2 cans (6 oz. each) crabmeat

2 T. Worcestershire sauce

1 t. onion flakes

1/2 t. garlic powder

4 T. mayonnaise

1 1/2 T. lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Beat cream cheese with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Spread in a 9x5 baking dish.

Add extra cheese on top.

Bake until golden brown and bubbly, approximately 30 minutes.



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