The reasoning is deliciously selfish: I’m not throwing feasts to miss them. I want to be wedged on the sofa between friends I never see enough of with a cocktail in my hand, telling terrible stories, not sweating in the kitchen because I forgot to wash the thyme leaves before stripping them and now my fingertips are worrisomely gray? (This is highly specific because it happens all the time.) Nobody I know or care to hang out with is going to care if I chuck the thyme in the trash and move on. The way I want to cook is — excuse the crushing earnestness here — the way I want to live; little extraneous noise in my recipes, lots of noise in the living room. Repeat after me: The time for the 4-process side dish is when it’s the only thing you’re making.
Thirty-six hours before the cooking-est day of the year in America is as good time as any to for us to talk about some hard-won cooking truths: There’s the idea of the perfect menu (all of my favorite recipe darlings in one place) and then there’s the actually perfect menu (the one you can pull off in a reasonable amount of time with as little stress as possible; darlings, murdered.) This is the kind of recipe we use when we come to our senses.