Joyeux Anniversaire

Notes From The Author--On the Occasion of Gino's 92nd Birthday

Notes From The Author–On the Occasion of Gino’s 92nd Birthday

Let’s face it; I’m a party girl. Though the time for all-night fests has long since passed and party productions are more apt to start in the afternoon and end before nightfall, I know the quality and the reason for the celebration matters more than the start and end times.

Obviously, Gino’s 90th birthday was not going to go unnoticed. For his 75th birthday, family and friends dined at the Windows of the World atop the World Trade Center. For his eightieth celebration, there was a dinner at Payard, a French restaurant in New York, followed by a session at Harlem’s Lenox Lounge. To celebrate his 85th birthday, we spent Thanksgiving with friends and family at a resort in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

There was a standard to be met and if possible, exceeded.

Publishing the memoir set the stage for the event. We would give copies, hot off the press, to guests who attended the San Antonio-based events and mail the remainder to those who could not be there. (Note: Four cousins came from Paris in addition to 40 friends who traveled to San Antonio for the three-day fiesta.)

Obviously, we wanted to do something special for this weekend celebration. Our life is filled with music thanks to our daughter Nicole. In the book, we mention her success as a pianist.   We could imagine no better way to celebrate this occasion than have Nicole play a recital in honor of her Daddy’s special birthday. I asked if this was of interest to her; she said yes, without hesitation, and the recital became the cornerstone event.

The book mentions Gino’s love of couscous, a mainstay of North African cuisine. For many years, I prepared this dish on his birthday. (It’s a tradition in our family that the birthday boy or girl gets to choose the menu for the special day.) Gino never wavered. Couscous without fail! Obviously, his 90th birthday dinner would have to include this dish.

The big event was taking shape. The official activities started a day early to accommodate the guests who traveled great distances. A Saturday evening barbecue at a local restaurant was added to the calendar. On Sunday, out-of-towners attended an informal brunch. Finally, at 3 pm, guests assembled at Steinway Piano Gallery to hear Nicole perform works by Brahms and Beethoven. Cake and champagne followed; toasts were offered and the signed books were distributed.

Monday was a sightseeing day with a ride on the San Antonio River taxi. Our dear friend, Sally Buchanan, who knows everything there is to know about the river and its development into the top state tourist attraction, provided the commentary for the out-of-town guests.

That evening, November 18, guests assembled at the home of our dear friend, Jeff Glass, for Gino’s Couscous Birthday Dinner. What could be more appropriate to bring this special occasion to a culinary climax? I asked Mike Bomberg, a caterer with whom I had worked on many projects through the years, to recreate this special dinner, Our dear cousins, Isabelle and Claude Bonan, hand-carried boxes of fresh Arab pastries from Paris, recreating another childhood memory for Gino.   Guests joined in, savoring the pastries dipped in honey and spices, sprinkled with orange flower water or almond oil and rolled in crushed nuts. Calories don’t count when you are 90.

Talk about a trip down memory lane . . .

I think it’s safe to say that everybody had a wonderful time. I know we did.

Charlotte Narboni