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22 April 22, 2003

risotto.JPG (89326 bytes)At one point there were three cooks--all male--stiring big bubbling pots of risotto for our Easter dinner last night. Risotto is not a traditional dish for our Easter family celebrations, but my sister-in-law had decided to "go Italian" this year--and what better dish to go Italian with than risotto?

It was a big deal. There was a huge bowl of chopped mushrooms which had been carefully chopped before we arrived. There was an equally large bowl of chopped onions. It was a slow-cook process and everyone took turns checking in to see about the progress of the risotto.

The whole meal (there were also 2 legs of lamb, a huge cesar salad with home-made croutons, and a green bean salad) had been lavished with care. My sister-in-law throws one hell of a dinner party.

She decorates her house to the 9s at Easter time and finds the cutest figures to decorate the table. For a couple of years in a row, white bunnies hid behind big glass bowls of floating candles (when I first learned about floating candles and what a nice thing they were).

This year, though, it was an Italian theme. Though there were 15-20 of us (or so) for dinner, she'd managed to find the perfect plates and bought enough to serve all of us--three different courses. The white bunnies had been replaced by adorable brown bunnies and in the place of the bowls of floating candles, she had large standing bowls of fruit and glasses with tall breadsticks standing in them. The look of the table, combined with the tapestry and paintings all depicting Italian themes, and the opera CD playing in the family room left no doubt about the ambience she was trying to create.

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I'd like to learn how to create an ambience. If "chaos" is an ambience, I've been wildly successful. Martha Stewart I ain't. My idea of ambience for a casual dinner (which we rarely have, for obvious reasons) is to push all the stuff on the table into one pile so the extra person at the table won't have to eat with elbows resting on a stack of catalogues I'm going to go through some day.

My mother was telling me about working with a committee to make centerpieces for the dinner tables for a fashion show she was helping to coordinate. I didn't quite picture the look, but it had something to do with live plants, cocktail umbrellas and wire.

At the recent roast-a-doc for which I was the photographer, Dr. G's wife and her committee made wonderful centerpieces out of coconut sand, and orchids, creating the luau theme she was going for. A year or two at Easter, my sister-in-law used squares of sod, with real grass growing on it and hid the Easter bunnies and the eggs in there. It was really unique, and quite lovely (despite the flying insects that were hiding in the grass).

I have sometimes been known to take a big candle, plunk it in the center of a table and try to drape some cloth around it and call it clever. I did spend several months watching Christopher Lowell and heard him talk over and over again about how "elegant" you can get by varying heights of candles and draping marvelous things over them.

Mine always looked like a pile of laundry that someone laid some candles down in. Somehow "elegance" was never quite a word I would use to describe it.

I have finally gotten Christmas table decorations down to a science. We went to a Christmas party for Walt's office a few years back and the hostess had done a lovely thing with some artificial greenery and votive candles. It worked so well I've copied it every year. I know it's time for a change, but untill I go to another fancy dinner party, I'm fresh out of ideas.

I am a little more competent in the kitchen, however. I can whup up a 7 course Chinese meal for 12 people while hardly breaking a sweat. I am not afraid to try new things out on guests, because we entertain so seldom that I never have a chance to perfect them before a guest comes to dinner.

Heck, I can even make--and have made--risotto. I will not say it was a howling success, but it was made with the utmost care and in the best spirit of Martha Stewart.

I have this dream. It's a dream of a house where there are no tsatskes. Where all the dishes and the silverware match. Where tablecloths and napkins match. Where there are fresh flowers and candles on the table. Where the table always looks lovely and at dinnertime the meal is as pretty to look at as to eat.

Then I wake up, open the freezer, try to decide what I'm going to make with another frozen chicken breast, and hope that the pile of junk on the table (which is still covered with the tablecloth from Christmas) doesn't fall over into the dinnerplate while we're eating.

But once in awhile I get to go out and see how the other half lives, and have risotto and breadsticks while little bunnies look at me with big, luminous eyes. 

Quote of the Day

Life is too complicated not to be orderly.

~ Martha Stewart

Today's Photo

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One Year Ago
Moaning Becomes Electric
(I visit a "real" health club)

Two Years Ago
Tiptoe Thru the Tulips
(Tulip Trip 2001)

Three Years Ago
Burn Rubber, Baby
(Bev, the chauffeur)

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Pounds Lost:  68.2
(this figure is updated on Tuesdays)

On the Odometer

Blue Angel Total 920.6
2003 YTD Cumulative:  422.2

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