Ayyam-i-Ha is the period of 4-5 intercalary (between calendars) days in the Bahá’í calendar. It is a time for generosity, hospitality, and fellowship. Here, there is an opportunity to host “Special Dinners” in celebration. You sign up for a type of cuisine and a date, then get assigned a guest list. Sergey and I decided to host one of these dinners (Tex-Mex themed, because I have no idea what Wisconsin-Moldovan cuisine would entail) for two reasons. One was to extend hospitality to our colleagues and friends. The other was to study our behaviour under pressure.
It proved to be a great test for that latter point. From a beginning guest list of ten, we eventually inflated to 25. Now, I’ve done most of the cooking for 15 before (Thanksgiving dinner), and had 25 people over (for the weekly study meeting), but this was my first time cooking solo for so big a crowd. Calculating how much food I would need to feed 25 people bulking up for the Fast, I began to mildly panic. Would polvorones and tres leches cake (which was almost autocorrected to the less appetizing “tres leeches cake”) sate the many sweet teeth? How many gallons of horchata to brew? Four kilos of chicken? Ten avocados for guacamole, twenty tomatoes for salsa? And how much caffeine for me?
And then there was the cleaning and organisation to be done. Sergey recently moved into a flat that was previously occupied by an artistic nature lover. Therefore, scattered around the flat were odd arrangements involving bamboo poles, rocks, houseplants, and an iron tub. My favourite was in the dining room, where in a corner several bamboo poles and rough white rocks sat on a dais of tree trunk, with a lamp and a houseplant nestled in the middle.
Eventually we got the place looking less like an eccentric’s greenhouse, and I merrily went about watering the many plants. One giant plant seemed especially thirsty, so I kept watering it. Several minutes later, I noticed a yellow puddle spreading under the refrigerator from the plant saucer and realised that I might have been overenthusiastic in my plant care. While mopping it up, I thought of an incident years ago during my toddling days when I had also overestimated my green thumb. In our living room, we had some big potted jasmine plants. In my childish ignorance, I guess I thought soil contained seeds, and all one had to do was sprinkle dirt around and, poof, plants would grow. So, after enlisting poor Jasmine in my plan, we scooped handfuls of soil out of the pots and sowed a mess on the carpet and couches. Our harvest was two peeved parents.
Anyway, despite our nerves–mine manifested in excessive baking sprees–and obstacles like a contrary oven, the night was a success. (There were a few jalapeño issues, but no trips to the ER.) After eating, we had an anonymous gift exchange, and then a musical portion with sing-alongs and call-and-response. Although by this point I was collapsed on the floor, I really enjoyed hearing the voices of our guests joined in song. People were happy. There’s a quote of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about how a gathering can transform a home into a house of heaven, and indeed, it was one heavenly flat.