by Lisa


When I moved to the suburbs, I quickly fell in with an excellent group of moms.  These women were  funny,  friendly, well-educated, down-to-earth.  They had adorable, energetic, smart kids.  They made me feel welcome and they fed my soul.  We and our yearlings became fast friends…and the years sped by.   More than five years later, this group has been through a lot. Pretty much everything, really:  births, deaths, divorce, remarriage, being hired and fired, moving house  (internationally, even), serious illness…truly the gamut of what can happen in the middle years of breeding, parenting, and relating to one’s spouse. We’ve celebrated and consoled together, taken day trips and had plenty (okay, maybe not enough) of nights out.

But as often happens, when the oldest of our children entered kindergarten, the group began to fracture. Our kids attend different schools, and a few have moved out of town, though still within reasonable driving distance.  So when weekly meetings became impossible, we convened a monthly Pizza Night. The goal was simple:  to sustain our friendship and those of our kids.  The overarching plan was to to Keep It Simple.  No fancy cooking, no competitive potlucks, no late afternoon kitchen work allowed. We knew we’d never keep it up if this were the rule.  To keep the emphasis on the friendship, we would order in pizza and bring a few simple sides to supplement.

We gathered the first Friday of every month, chipped in for pizza, and potlucked the rest: we brought appetizers, salads, sides, dessert, drinks for the kids, & plenty of wine.  I’m pretty sure we all just chipped in whatever we could make that week, depending on the state of our pantry and the level of our weekly insanity.   It was really, really fun.   The kids ran a little wild and free, and we got a chance to catch up–sometimes around the living room, often outside on the patio.  Since the kids have been together for so long, they were  as eager to hang out as the moms were and, once fed, required minimal attention.

And something happened when we went from the morning playgroup to the Friday Night Pizza Party.  Sure, we always had great food in the mornings, but there’s something different about convening for an easy dinner at the end of the week.  We were all relaxed,  and the event felt more social and less like a scheduled kids’ activity.  It was something to look forward to for moms + kids alike, and something both groups were equally happy about attending.   Of course, it’s great–and necessary–to get out without the kids, but there’s a certain excitement generated when the party is for them, too.  There’s something about gathering for a meal, even–maybe especially–a  simple one, that feeds hungers that are not always apparent. And that is what this group of women (like so many groups of women across the country, I’m sure) has always done so well.

For a while, we were good about keeping this up pretty regularly, but inevitably,  it got harder. Now we get together only every few months, but the thing is–it’s still the same.  Each time we meet, it’s still as if I’ve seen these women yesterday.

At our most recent night in, one friend made her flan, which is a little bit of a dessert staple for the group.  It’s mostly for the moms but the kids sometimes finagle their way a slice, too.  A  quick search on Epicurious turns up nearly 60 recipes for flan, including coffee, orange, almond, corn, dulce de leche….but this is my friend’s version, and it’s always pleased us.

Mom’s Night In Flan

4 large eggs
1 can sweet and condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1-2 tsp.vanilla

1.boil water for “water bath”
2.mean while, in saucepan bring about 1 cup sugar to boiling over medium low heat till browns into carmel, watch and stir constantly, (I don’t use a thermometer or anything, I just eyeball it.
3. in any baking pan pour hot carmel into botton of pan (I’ve used glass, metal bread pan, corning ware, any size. My preference is a round dish about 7-9″)
4. Combine eggs, both cans of milks and 2 tsp. of vanilla in blender,mix on high spead 30-60 secs., depending on which kids are screaming
5. pour mixture over carmel and use a larger pan to pour the boiling water into for the “bath”
6. cook for 1 hour-1:15 mins. in 300 degree oven
7. cool to room temp.and then put in fridge for as long as you like