The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘hosting’

Salmon Mousse, or Absolute Power

August 17, 2015 | by

First edition, 1988.

Cooking, as we know, is a constant test of character. It’s easy to pretend we’re all attracted to the high-minded ideals of fostering community, continuing traditions, and feeding souls. But catering for others is often competitive—even if the competition is only with oneself. There is the constant temptation to show off, to experiment, to give into exhibitionism, to put theoretical pleasures before a guest’s actual comfort. The turning out of a completely anodyne meal can be an exhausting exercise, because for every normal and pleasing dish served, there exist the ghosts of a hundred more exciting possibilities considered and abandoned, haunting the dinner table with their potential glory. The trick is keeping overweening ambition at bay. The trick is remembering that, for the duration of the meal, you have a kind of control over others.

And so the question really becomes: What does one do with absolute power? The Stanford Prison Experiment is always looming on the horizon. Benignity goes against nature. Read More »

Don’t Hold Back

June 20, 2014 | by


Dan Dailey, Romance, 1987

Each member of my family has quirks and foibles. I stomp my foot like a cartoon furious person when I lose my temper, and I once humiliated myself the one time I attempted the road test by waiting ten minutes to turn at an intersection, panicking, and nearly hitting an oncoming car. My brother pulls a weird, unconscious face whenever he passes a mirror; he will never live down the years he spent, as late as the first grade, refusing to wear clothing. My dad is mocked regularly for getting ketchup all over his face and for insisting on down jackets in seventy-degree weather. And then there’s my mom’s thing. It’s probably very unwise of me to write what I am about to write while I am staying with my parents. But I am, like pope emeritus Benedict XVI, a Servant of the Truth.

Although she’s an excellent cook and great company, my mom is a nervous hostess. She finds the demands of guests and meal-planning onerous—terrifying, even. By the time dinner is served, she has generally worked herself into an anxious frenzy. I’m sure most people at the table can’t tell; to her family, the signs are unmistakable.

At some point in the meal, a wild look will come into her eyes. Her hands will clench. It is as though she is possessed. A conversation may be in progress; someone may be mid-anecdote. It matters not. As though powerless to prevent the words, she will suddenly declaim: