The Hassle Fee Host was my only in-home entertaining book, but not by choice. Even though it was a best seller, people wanted me to decorate the kitchen rather then use it. Nevertheless, I have been a lifelong foodie long before there was a “food channel”.
In fact, my early goal was to be a chef. While I’ve had the pleasure of learning and
cooking with some of the country’s best, and planed many a party in my time, I’ve come to appreciate get-togethers that feel like they erupted out of nowhere.
I’ve learned how to make dishes that can be done well in advance so by the time guests show up the food dishes are just heating up or better, on hold, in a nice clean kitchen. I’ve learned that it’s hard enough having people over, opening up one’s home to self-imposed inspection. So I’ve tried to make simplicity, chic. I’ve learned over the years that less really is best.
We eat with our EYES
Fewer dishes heaping in abundance is far better than lots of fussy side dishes that, in the end, weren’t worth the, well…fuss. In terms of both food and table, you get to benefit from years of my own editing. I grew from being an insecure host going way over the top, to being much more welcoming and present because I finally realized that it was never about “me” in the first place.
So in addition to covering the essentials of cooking, I'll be putting emphasis on how to open one's home and be truly relaxed with tested menus that are so simple and so well received.
Party idea FIRST
As I said above, the first thing one has to remember is that entertaining is all about "them" not you... even though you've intentionally opened yourself up to judgment of every sort.
So if you're looking to have a good time too, best to invite folks who seem, you know, nice! But before you do, plan the party then decide who will like it. I know DAH, but so many invite first then go into a panic. Matching people to the style of party is as essential as matching people to people. If as you plan, you start hyper-ventelating so much you wanna die, then you're not ready yet. Period. However if you panic but then figure out that at least three of your friends really don't care? That's enough to have a get-together and start working out your hosting style.
what's a hosting style?
A hosting style is well, your signature sort of. It will evolve and you can change and perfect it as you gain experience, but what it really means is what's the best way to translate who you are into how you host a gathering? So the key here is to make your hosting style as close to who you really are as possible. For example: People who watched me on TV for years expected to experience something between Martha Stewart and The Mad Hatter's tea party. But that dude on TV is, well for TV. It's a heightened version of myself but not sustainable or appropriate from an evening with friends.
It's rustic Italian in look and often in the food too. It's my launching point. I'm also very inclusive as far as people helping and getting involved. I usually let them set the table...It's a great ice-breaker and it makes more people responsible for the outcome---and less heat on me!
I'm not formal, maybe more romantic--with a touch of bestro--but do like a well set, eye-catching table or better, a buffet. But I use herbs in pots, as the 'flowers", ironstone white plates ONLY and mix and match flea market silverware and stemware. I have a rustic harvest table on which I only add a white linen runner done its center and I always use white ironed napkins.....wait! What? Here's the deal, I can throw em in the wash and bleach the hell out of them, throw em in the dryer, take em out damp and iron (smooth) with my hands. Done. But I'll tell you those puppies add SUCH an "OMG you fussed" or "Boy do you have your act together" element for literally five minutes of work. Nothing wrong with paper it's just not special. So with everything stacked on the table, I let people set it because you really can't make a mistake and it is so much easier to pull up a chair like family versus that "formal who sits where" pause that often fills the air with "awkward."
Over the years I've perfected the look so I don't have to think about it AT ALL! I do it every time the same way. People have come to expect it when they think about excepting the invitation. Predictibality is comforting especially if you have your signature style down pat.
Most the stuff I now own comes from consignment stores and flea markets so for example, I bought 10 ironstone plates for $8 bucks. A single one, at any gourmet store is $12 to $14 EACH! For serving/baking I hit the restaurant supply stores which thank God, are now open to the public (all white as well). I tried the vintage mix and match linen napkin thing, but too high maintenance and they don't hold up to bleach---pasta sauce for---ever. Those, I get at the restaurant supply, unless I find a hotel close-out at a thrift store or something. That way I know they're made for abuse.
Reinvention means a people edit
Yep, every time I've reinvented myself meaning: gotten closer to my own truth, I not only purge stuff, but people too. I've come to realize that just because I had history with them doesn't mean I'll continue to make it with them. If we evolve, the people we carry forward in our lives should be evolving too. Otherwise they can keep you trapped in the past. Some have indeed evolved later and come back into my world but life gets shorter. The time I spend with others has to be just as fun as the blissful time I spend alone and they have to bring new perspective from the big world into my my little world.
Well that's enough for this time. If you like what you read about food and entertaining let me know and do check back!
PS: No I won't right another book on food, I don't think...well maybe...I'd rather just post recipes here as I go. I like making new dishes under other chefs so what I learn I can pass on to you. Shhhhhh. I'd rather write thoughts about food and the courage to party stress. Oh I did chef for a year, and did it privately. I liked it for the first month! Duplicating and having to cook when "they" want it? Nah. That's why I never became a chef. By the way there are copies of the Hassle-Free Host available here for really cheap. What the hell right? I mean it was a best seller. wink
I am however going to attempt to open our own little cafe as this site progresses. It's a vertual place where we can interact and everyone has their own reserves booth! If you like the idea let us know!