I know, I know, Gender Reveal parties aren’t really that ‘cool’, they have been done many times before (to hilarious results at times) but no matter how much I try and talk myself out of doing them, I just can’t! Plus, the timing of the scan coincided impeccably well with Dave’s birthday, so there were now two great reasons to throw a party.
Parties are my thing. I love thinking about them, organising them, planning my schedule around them… let alone the culmination of all the hard work paying off when everyone steps through the door and the fun begins. The buzz of conversation, kids weaving through the crowd chasing each other, eyes wide with wonder as the food starts coming out, the pulse of the music, people eating until they can hardly move – its the best reward ever.
Ever since my lifelong friend from school began throwing pizza parties a few years ago, I became hooked. Unlike their handcrafted rustic dome that stood proudly on its own slab, I knew Dave and I weren’t blessed with sufficient handyman skills to build our own, so we went the easy way and bought one from Bunnings.
The discovery of Neighbor’s Table and the concept of having regular gatherings of friends and neighbours around a long table furthered this desire as we both thought that pizza parties could become our thing. We dreamed of a long wooden table, a covered pergola, twinkling fairy lights (Ok, that might have been my dream) and the aroma of woodfired pizza wafting over the scene. At the party we finally managed to achieve it and it felt amazing. (Except for the fairy lights… we didn’t quite manage to get to those!)
I’m a big fan of hospitality that includes and encourages interaction, cocktail parties being my favourite kind of hosting event, and we tried to recreate the concept here. We provided the base ingredients for the pizzas and requested that guests brought a gourmet ingredient to share. As the list began rolling in of who was bringing what it was so exciting – prosciutto, rocket, tandoori chicken, fresh herbs, marinated eggplant, cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, brie, turkey, cranberry sauce, olives, artichokes, feta, pineapple, eggs, red onions, sundried tomatoes, roasted pumpkin… what an array!
When I sat down to figure out the quantities of ingredients and how I was going to prepare everything on my end, it did seem a little overwhelming. At first estimate, I thought 60 pizzas would need to be the goal, in order to generously cover each adult and child. After a little freak out session we decided we would order pizza for the kids instead – to take some of the pressure off. I took the total down to 50 pizzas, and gradually began to get my head around making that many. Thanks to my amazing friend from Kinder who came over to give me a demonstration on her Thermomix, then let me borrow it for the party, we managed to do 14 batches of dough in record time. A proven pizza party aficionado herself, she gave me valuable advice about par-cooking the pizza bases which saved us a lot of mess and mucking around during the evening.
The entire week before the big day was spent in fitting in party preparations – big pots of tomato sauce bubbling away on the stove (if you are interested, I gently sizzle loads of garlic in olive oil before adding in cans of whole peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, a pinch of sugar, lots of salt and fresh basil and letting it reduce for ages on the stove top. When it has reached the desired consistency I swirl some good quality balsamic vinegar through it to finish).
There were dashes to the grocery store to stock up on drinks, cheese, plates, trifle components and antipasto ingredients… and I may have gone slightly overboard when I asked Dave to purchase no less than 2.5kgs of salami and ham. Friends came to my rescue with visits to Dandenong Market for specialty ham and kabana, picking up ice-cream and cones for the kids as well. We also did a practice run the night before the party, because we figured you can never have too much pizza.
There was one moment before the party when it all became too much – Dave had enrolled himself in a PhD conference for the day and a half before the party and an altercation with the kids that normally would not have affected me so much, tipped me over the edge. I felt all the pressure of having to scale the ever-increasing to-do list while asking children to do simple things far too many times. It wasn’t pretty at all. There were colourful text messages, confessional pleas to close friends and the very welcome knock of my mother in law at the door to come and provide me with much needed sanity. Dave decided that the fragile condition of my psyche might not withstand another absence on the Saturday and kindly stayed home to help out instead.
On the day of the party it was baking time. Huge bowls of proving dough stood at the ready, and I perfected my rolling technique as I par-baked base after base.
The time flew by and before we knew it Mum and Dad had arrived to help with the last minute tasks and then it was on. Kids excitedly gorged themselves on chips and dip, everyone laid our their ingredients and began to craft delicious pizzas. It was so much fun watching people getting their hands dirty, throwing together concoctions and collaborating. Before long countless pizzas lined the wooden table and we had more food than we could ever need. The weather couldn’t have been better – sunshine, beautiful breeze, balmy temperature (except for poor Dave who felt like it was 40 degrees in front of the oven!).
As for the actual announcement, things got a little chaotic when Hudson blinded himself with sand when we were ready to open the envelope. We had to take a quick break because no matter how many times we wiped his eyes, he just kept on putting sand back into them when he insisted on wiping them himself. It was crazy, messy and not exactly how I pictured it, but we pulled it together in time for Eli to read the contents of the envelope, whisper the answer to Hudson and pop the red balloon. We are having a boy! Ivy spent the next half hour excitedly bouncing the blue balloon up and down and playing peek-a-boo with her Aunty. It took a little while for the news to sink in for Dave and I – being still so busy with party stuff for the time being. When we chatted about it later, however, we both decided that it was good news – Ivy is such a strong girl already and having three brothers is a huge blessing for her. We didn’t get the symmetry factor, but there is so much beauty in whatever combination of human life we are privileged enough to be a part of creating.
When the dust settled and the house was pulled back into its usual shape, we were tired but very happy. A celebration of life, friends, family, good food and wine, the hint of smoke wafting through the air, music pumping, people laughing and chatting – what better way could we have chosen to spend our Sunday? Plus, due to my questionable maths skills in estimating quantities, we now have a freezer stocked to the brim with bases, sauce, cheese and deli meats in which to throw at least a few more pizza dinner parties without even having to lift a finger. Bring it on!