Not that we didn't throw lots of parties in the city. I'd regularly set out buffets for 20 on our tiny kitchen counter. Having cooked on the line at restaurants for years, I expected to keep up my game at home, which meant my party food was either derivative of the restaurants I cooked in (shallots confited in red wine sauce—delicious but fussy) or channeled someone else's more storied rural roots (smoky Southern-style pork butt). I rarely served Midwestern food, which I thought of at the time as stodgy and stuck in the past. (I have since become one of its fiercest advocates.) Back then I dreamed about throwing classy parties—proper ones with champagne in flutes, individual appetizers, two to three courses, and well-behaved children. That dream died fast and, truth be told, painlessly, when I moved back to Minnesota. Any guests who come with expectations of haute cuisine stand corrected when they arrive to find me still peeling carrots, kicking the oven door shut with my house mocs, and taking breaks to sip a cocktail as I pound out a sauce in my mortar.