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Orphan Holidays | Mary's Farm

At the most, I’ve crowded 25 people around that table (with an extension), and at the least, I’ve hosted seven — all grateful for a good place to go to share what can otherwise be deadly days of remorse or sadness while (you’re certain) the entire rest of the world is happily celebrating with their big families. An exaggeration, of course, as I know there are people with large families who grit their teeth through the whole ordeal — but, truly, holidays can be so difficult for anyone alone.

I love the holidays as a way to try out new recipes and to re-experience the joy of bringing out old favorites. I also love this time as a way of loving my house. You could look at it as something very similar to dressing up — that wonderful outfit just hanging in the closet, waiting for the right occasion. Well, I love dressing up my house. It’s a chance to decorate. (I’d never unpacked even a single Christmas ornament before I started hosting the orphan holidays. It seemed so pointless. Decorate for what? For whom?) And it’s an opportunity to get out the good china and silverware, use the gravy boat, change the tablecloth, put new tapers into the candlesticks…whatever.

It’s no different from what everyone else loves about having family over for Thanksgiving and Christmas; it’s a chance to change gears, see the house through different eyes. I love every part of a party: planning the menu, cleaning the house, setting the table, cooking the meal — which I insist must be almost completely ready before the first guest arrives. All I want to have to do once the party starts is put the food on the table. After all, I want to attend this party, too. That’s why I’m giving it!

And so, out of the somber puzzle of how to cook for one came the joyous process of cooking for 20 and more. I recommend it highly. My favorite moment of all comes at the height of the party: to sit for a moment and listen…listen to the talk, the laughter, the joy within these walls.

Excerpted from Saturday Beans and Sunday Suppers, Edie Clark’s new memoir about special people, special places, and special foods, including favorite recipes, available now from

ALSO, read Edie’s 15 helpful holiday hostessing tips before you plan your next dinner party.

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5 Responses to Orphan Holidays | Mary’s Farm

  1. January 1, 2008 at 4:18 pm #

    Thank you for keeping Mary’s Farm in your new Yankee magazine, tho I miss it on the back page since it is the first article I read! Because Edie Clark is such an exceptional writer, gifted, in my opinion, I immediately sent for her two most recent books your magazine mentioned and was not disappointed. – Both books, The Place He Made and Saturday Beans and Sunday Suppers are captivating. Her love for New England is evident in all her articles, essays and books and the candid observations are most welcome.

    Thank you for featuring her work. She certainly knows how to connect with a reader.

  2. sally diver January 3, 2008 at 1:43 pm #

    Just love her articles and have just ordered both her books…

  3. Lou E Shellenberger May 29, 2008 at 12:06 am #

    I have looked forward to Edie’s article every month. I have read both of her books and hope she writes more. Today a friend gave me some rhubarb, so I got out Edie’s book “SaturdayNight Beans and Summer Dinners and made the rhubarb soup. What a treat!
    I have subscribed to Yankee Mag for years and it is my favorite magazine. I feel a kinship to the people of New England although I really do not have any connection to your part of the country. I have visited twice to Vermont and Cape Cod. Thanks for your giving me an armchair vacation every time I get your magazine. Lou Shellenberger

  4. Sue morris March 22, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    Thankyou Edie for this wonderful article……as with all of the others which I have read, there is always something so heartwarming and special which stays with me in my mind’s eye.

    I have only just today read about your beginnings as a writer and just wanted to say how much I loved reading your description of using that typewriter…..the sounds it made, aligning the paper, the words appearing on the page.etc. etc……oh, how I identified with this and remembered my first tentative ‘goes’ on the typrewriter in my fourth year of high school in the early 1960’s…..I went on to be a Secretary/receptionist and, even though I don’t write for my living, I still enjoy typing and seeing the words appearing, not on the paper page these days, but onto my monitor which sits here in my studio in Cottesloe, Western Australia…….I so look forward to reading more and more of your articles as time permits. Regards and Smiles. Sue.

  5. Susan Acklen August 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    Edie: I am trying to recall where I read a comment that has stayed with me for years. I want to say it was in one of your columns back in the 1990’s. It was something to the effect that “three of the best things in life are: to be dirty and to get clean, to be hungry and to eat and to be tired and to rest. Is this from one of your columns?


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