Saturday, February 19, 2011

On the esoterics of entertaining and such

Dear Reader, I know that you have barely caught your breath after my last post and by now, have noticed that I have a curious habit of attacking you with overwhelming intensity.  This is the true nature of the Taurus personality--we typically like to impress you with our stuff, be it intellectual, personal or material.  Fellow Tauri out there (and I know of several of you reading this), likely you'll agree with me when I say that we want to be adored and admired, but that curiously, we take our sweet time in seeing that other people seem to need smaller doses of us than we'd like to generously dole out.

I know you are all very busy--I am very busy--and would probably wish for less information to bombard you.  I would also like to continue to enjoy what I am doing with The Voluptuous Table and to keep it feeling like play instead of work.  So I have decided that I will post less often, probably on average of about two or three times a week.  This should be enough to maintain all of us in a good humor!

Tonight I am having a small dinner party and another couple will join my husband and me for several hours.  Along with making sure that the house is clean enough for company (oh? some of you do not have that problem?), I will be arranging the dining table and thinking about how to serve appetizers.  I have never been satisfied with simply offering good food to my guests.  For me, the food must not only be good, it must be beautifully presented.  And by extension, the setting in which the food is offered must also be inviting, appealing and amusing in some way.  So what to do when company comes for dinner?

Since the Taurus personality is so sensitive to environmental things, I always try to make my guests' experiences comfortable, pleasing to the eye, the ear, the palate, and especially (thanks to Venus rising) sensual in some way.  Food is sensual.  Wine is sensual.  Music and lighting are sensual.  What you surround yourself with in your home and display to your guests is sensual.  Spending time in a quiet, intimate setting with people you like and enjoy is sensual.  All of these things are also highly subjective to personal taste, so let your guests see who you are and give that part of you to them.  In short, make a memory that all of you will muse about later and perhaps feel a tiny bit sad that your time together has gone so quickly.

I enjoy looking at beautiful things.  I like to collect beautiful things.  I decided a long time ago not to save beautiful things for "special occasions."  Every opportunity I have to serve food in my home is a special occasion, especially if it is just a weeknight dinner for my husband and me.  People enjoy being made to feel special.  So use and display your beautiful things.  My secret?  A lot of my beautiful things come from thrift shops.  I love to spend my spare time picking through all those disorganized piles and dusty shelves.  It's the most wonderful treasure hunt in the world!  Another secret?  I pay almost nothing for my treasures.  But this kind of collecting can get to be an addiction--take it from one who knows--so pace yourself, or at least have plenty of storage space.

I have always enjoyed amusing my guests (sometimes this might include an impromptu performance of "O Mio Bambino Caro" or a clever Cole Porter tune if I have an accompanist!), and I will often amuse them by making the table an oppulent hodge-podge of pieces from several periods, lots of shimmer and light, small caches of flowers, long curls of ribbon, an unusual "party favor" for them to take with them.  One Easter, I had small nests of Spanish moss to gently cradle the most exquisite quail eggs at each place setting.  Often, I will have a surprise planned for larger gatherings (e.g., a belly dancer for a Moroccan party, a fortune teller for a 1920's ball, traveling minstrels, silent movies on a big screen outdoors, a pianist or cellist, someone to dramatically recite "The Raven" on Halloween).

Although I could continue to talk about what I have found makes my guests feel welcome, I want to make one final point: Never, never, never use paper or plastic plates, cups and utensils when company comes.  Not even for an appetizer party.  When guests come, it is always special occasion, so make them feel special.  Use cloth napkins (or if you must, very high quality paper ones).  Use your beautiful things, your china, your crystal, your heirloom silver from your great Aunt Emily.  Imagine how special that effort will make you feel.  It is certainly worth the extra effort and time.  Somehow, drinking an expertly mixed Perfect Manhattan or a dry martini out of an airline tumbler cheapens the experience.  And drinking a sparkling wine out of plastic flutes?  Vindaloo wouldn't hear of it!

My mother once gave me a tea towel that reads, "I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends."  I can't wait for my guests to arrive!

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