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A Happy Time for All.
Affection is the most important
motivation for the home cook, especially when having
guests. My mailbag is filled with requests that prove
this is true.
"My father loves-----. Can you help me make it for
"My grandmother always prepared------. Even though
she is gone, could you keep our tradition going?"
"I'm going to have my prospective in-laws as guests.
What would be impressive and fail-safe?"
These are the letters which come each day. It is rare
indeed that I am asked for a recipe that someone wants to
make solely for their own enjoyment.
There is hope and family caring in these letters. Most of
the time, there is also an unfortunate element of worry.
If a recipe is special enough to merit a request, it is
usually meant for a gala event. Too often we are
needlessly intimidated by an occasion which should be
enjoyed. Nothing should be more safe and comfortable than
enjoying the company of those who are dear to us.
With that in mind, I would like to make some comments on
entertaining. Nothing grand or fancy, there are plenty of
books out there for those who want to be impressive.
These words are for cooks who want to share their homes
and make a happy time for their loved ones.
When preparing a festive meal, we are in a sense offering
our hearts on a platter filled with hope and caring. It
is a lovely gift, and one in which all should take a
pleasure unmarred by nervous jitters.
I am going to offer a few bits of advice for readers who
are planning an event, however small. None of these ideas
are unbreakable rules. They are guidelines to ensure
comfort. Do remember that your guests want to have a
1. All that schmutz you are finding will be invisible to
your guests. Be neat, polish mirrors and get rid of
obvious dust on furniture. Believe me, NOBODY will see
dust bunnies under the bed or the inside of your oven.
White glove inspections are the stuff of Army nightmares
and old MGM movies; real people don't do that. I promise
that a messy drawer will not bring a tour of guard duty.
2. Put a lock on your bedroom door and use it. Your
private space is just that, private. Find another place
to stash the coats. The purpose of entertaining is to
share your home, not to surrender it. As host, you define
the space for a party, and don't need to offer anyone a
tour. If it would be easier for you to close the door on
a messy office, do it. There is no need to explain why
anything is off limits.
3. Do not leave anything in the bathroom, if you do not
want it handled. Even the nicest people have an
unfortunate tendency to open drawers and medicine chests.
Get a box: throw in your pills, personal care items, etc.
Then hide them elsewhere. If the bathroom is neat and
clean, you will seem a marvelous housekeeper, even though
the rest of the place is a wreck. Be certain to have
clean towels and dental floss available. For some reason,
those who open medicine chests are always in search of
4. Quantity seems to be more important than quality with
regard to food for gatherings. You will notice that
restaurants are often praised and patronized for large
portions, even though the menu offerings are third rate.
Use as many serving dishes as possible. If you can put it
out on three platters, use nine and fill some of the
space on them with parsley or edible flowers placed
around the edges. Try to cover a buffet table so the
cloth is invisible. For example, a different dish for
each crudités, grouped around the one with the dip.
Someone will say that you have made too much, but will be
impressed that so many choices seem to be available.
5. Everything tastes better if there is a paper doily on
the serving plate. This is true, even if the dish is
juicy, and the doily is soggy under the food. Every
market sells doilies. You can also become a better cook
by decorating the platters with parsley, decorative kale
or fruit slices. Pretty food tastes better.
6. A bunch of supermarket flowers on the table will make
you a master chef. If you do not have the budget for
flowers, fill a container (a rusty dented old pot or
chipped pottery bowl are particularly artistic) with
fresh fruit and/or vegetables, using decorative kale or
curly endive for foliage. A large bunch of grapes, draped
over anything else edible, will make your centerpiece
look like a still life painting.
7. Dress, comb your hair, and apply make-up if you wear
it: before doing anything else. When you feel attractive,
you will also be more confident and friendly. If guests
arrive early, you can continue with kitchen chores, but
you can't duck out to take your shower. Another word
about attractiveness: nobody looks good when their feet
hurt. Wear comfortable shoes and save the high heels for
when you are a guest.
8. Wear an apron. You will not be happy, if the
inevitable spots and spills of the kitchen destroy your
clothes. If you are male and feel self-conscious, at
least tuck a towel in your waistband. It is a good idea
to wear washable clothes and have an extra outfit waiting
in the closet, just in case you get salad dressing all
9. Never prepare something for guests, if you have not
tested the recipe beforehand. The most seemingly reliable
sources may have an error or misprint. An additional
caution: have a backup plan. What will you serve, if you
drop the vegetables or burn the roast? Just knowing that
no item is of critical importance will make everything
flow more smoothly.
10. Do remember that you are supposed to have fun. When
people are smiling, a less than perfect dish won't matter
at all. If anything goes wrong, have a good laugh, and
just keep going. The love you are offering will be
returned in the gladness of the company.
Copyright 2001 Eddy Robey
An excerpt from .It's
Not Just Chicken Soup.
Eddy Robey M.A.
Author of It's
Not Just Chicken Soup.Like all Jewish mothers, I feed
everyone in sight, and have been at work in the kitchen
for over 25 years. Correspondence should be addressed to email@example.com and
will be read as soon as the dishes are done. You can find
many of my recipes online at Gantseh Megillah
Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think
would enjoy it, as long as you include my copyright.
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