The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘dinner parties’

Let Me Entertain You

January 22, 2016 | by

Larry Salk, Summer Cocktail Party with English Butler, 1961, watercolor, gouache, ink on paper.

Among my other compulsions, I have an addiction to books about entertaining. Specifically, I suck at cooking but here are my tricks for impressing everyone books. This category encompasses titles like Peg Bracken’s classic The I Hate to Cook Book, but my favorites are less defiant and more conspiratorial. I think it all started with a copy of the food stylist Kevin Crafts’s Desperate Measures: 90 Unintimidating Recipes for the Domestically Inept, which was in my house when I was growing up. It contains fabulous chapters like “Entertaining Is a Self-Inflicted Wound,” “Remedial Entertaining,” and “Patsy Cline Memorial Chili Dinner.” The pictures are, needless to say, outstanding, and I still like his ice-cream-cake recipe. My addiction was hastened by Sally Quinn’s The Party (in which she’s always passing bought food off as her own) and over the years bolstered with any title containing the words entertaining, secrets, trickery, and stylish solutionsRead More »

On Knowing Things

April 14, 2014 | by

Lucy_and_the_psychiatric_help_booth

Photo: Allen Timothy Chang

Yesterday, I was one of several people manning a book-centric advice booth as part of a New York literary festival. For days beforehand, I was paralyzed with nerves. I couldn’t face the other, more legitimate advice-givers; I felt like a charlatan and an impostor. I had something of an existential crisis.

I have always wanted to be a maven. But my standards are high, because I once knew a true maven. She was not a know-it-all; she just knew everything. I met her when I was nineteen and my college boyfriend and I were traveling through London. Lise, who at the time was in her seventies, was a friend of his family, and she was the sort of hostess who welcomed friends, and friends of friends, and acquaintances of friends, to stay with her in her flat, south of Hyde Park.

She was an imposing sort of person, her already-deep voice further deepened by years of chain-smoking. In later years, she had a stern doctor and would periodically use some sort of early e-cigarette, but the Marlboro Reds would generally reappear on the kitchen table. As would the whiskey, the butter. She could speak Russian and German and French and had worked as a translator. Meals at her house lasted for five hours, and at the end everyone was drunk but her. Formerly involved with helping end theater censorship in England—and the widow of a spy-turned-diagnostician-turned-mystery-writer—she seemed to know everyone. Beckett and Pinter and Peter O’Toole would all turn up in her stories; other Sunday lunch guests might be Labour whips, or countesses, or just someone’s young daughter who had lost her way and needed a place to stay for a while. Read More »