Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Debunking the Effortless-Entertaining Myth


            I subscribe to one magazine. Every month I look forward to its decorating tips, its travel suggestions, its recipes. But it seems as if at least every other month it features an article on how to entertain graciously with little or no effort. Not only do I not enjoy these, I find them downright irritating. Mainly because anyone who has ever so much as hosted a Tupperware or Mary Kay party knows that the claim of “effortless entertaining” is complete bul baloney.
            First, let me fill you in on my magazine’s idea of the perfect “lazy” lunch as described in the latest issue. If you’re hosting said lunch, it helps if you have a beach cottage with a front porch that will accommodate a table with seating for ten. With a few days planning, inspiration from the time you lived in the south of France, and a menu that requires an French-to-English dictionary just to pronounce the dishes, “easy” can be turned into “elegant” in no time. If you don’t have giant clamshells in which to ice down your wine selection, not to fret. Fake Faux versions can be found online at a mere $150 each. At that bargain price, you’ll want to snatch up a couple of them. And speaking of “clams,” let’s not forget a trip to the bank to finance this laid-back affair.
            If you don’t happen to have a beachside cottage at your disposal, how about offering a down-home, back-yard picnic? It helps if your back yard consists of ten acres with an 8,000 square-foot dairy barn (used to store your antiques), a stream, and a pond. With very little fuss, move your rustic farm table (which seats eight) outside under your towering red oak, add place-settings you’ve “plucked” from your barn, and fashion individual place-card holders with the wild flowers you’ve gathered from your very own meadow. Who knew a bucolic banquet could be both easy and economical?
            Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing those with the desire, means, and energy to entertain graciously. On the contrary, I admire their generosity and hospitality. But let’s call it what it is: a fete of biblical proportions that requires weeks (months?) of planning; a crew of cooks, cleaners, decorators, and furniture movers; and an income greater than that of most third-world countries. Even for those of us who don’t aspire to such grandiose galas, entertaining is never easy. I mean, we still have to plan, shop, clean, cook, serve, and clean again. That’s why I attempt it only about every five years. That is also why I never, ever call it "effortless."
            While magazine articles on entertaining can make great fantasy reading, the best lesson I ever learned about hassle-free entertaining was from a Laverne and Shirley episode. The girls had planned a festive affair at their apartment. About ten minutes before their guests arrived, they assembled their refreshments: Pepsi with milk and Oreo cookies with Redi-Whip sprayed on top. Now that, my friends, is about as effortless as it gets (and even then, they had to go to the store).          
    
           

4 comments:

  1. Cracked. Me. Up. Oh my gosh - I'll never entertain again without thinking of this - and the temptation to serve whip creamed oreos!!

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    1. I hate to admit this, Shel, but whipped cream and Oreos actually sound pretty good to me. If you served them at a party, I would'nt turn them down.

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  2. I agree with you. Since I always read Rick Bragg's contribution to that monthly magazine, the editors might want to ask him how the commoners celebrate.

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    1. Agreed, Martha. Actually, Bragg's articles are always the highlight of the magazine for me, and I'm often struck by the contrast between the "southern" lifestyle he presents and that presented by the rest of the magazine.

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