On Entertaining...

Does the Fire Extinguisher Go IN the Centerpiece,

or ON It?


Beneath hectic schedules, pizza deliveries, and "Taco Tuesdays", lurks in every modern woman’s heart, the Perfect Host. I’ll admit it. I love the idea of entertaining...

Entertaining, however, does NOT love me.

It’s kind of sad, really. Lured in by colonial Christmas wreaths, I start off with visions of spun sugar confections---

-----and end up dialing 9-1-1.

It never fails. I can toast bread under the broiler without a flaw--- unless we’re entertaining. In which case, I serve Garlic Buttered Briquettes., lightly scraped to perfection by the Chef.

And the grander the occasion, the more catastrophic the error...

I bought a murder mystery dinner party game and gussied up myself, my husband, and our homeplace in a fair approximation of a famous French winery, if that winery were grossly understaffed, and located in the suburban South.

("More vin blanc, y’all? Snail innerds, Jean-Pierre?").

The guests, new acquaintances all, were relishing their roles in the "murder" as much as the meal itself in a dining room set with our best crystal and china. The sideboard was laden with Roast Pork and Apples, Roast Breast of Turkey, and,

as one guest informed me (in her character’s perfect Italian accent)---

--- Centerpiece Flambé.

It seems the candles had burned down, and ignited the gypsophillia. (Gypso- from the Latin for "highly combustible", Phyl- meaning "not to be overlooked", and Lia- "your guests are now politely snorting green bean almondine out their noses"). I did what Martha Stewart would have done, naturally. I rose from my chair, steadied my tiara, and blew like I was a sound effects master for the sequel to "Twister"...

But I learned from the experience... No lighted centerpieces.

Bolstered by a new list of victi- ummm, guests, I attempted another "murder" party.

This one was on an English lordship’s manor, so I decked the halls in plastic armor, beefed up our Wellington’s, and put luminarias out along the driveway to simulate the estate "airstrip". I was feeling pret-ty creative until the third guest arrived, scorched and mangled luminaria dangling from well manicured fingernails, counseling us to check that she had indeed stomped out the grass fire in the estate’s "polo fields" with her stilettos.

But I had learned... No luminarias.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only thing progressing. If one of the fabled elements cannot subdue me, then the Fates will enjoin a second. Thus, we arrive at:

The Tea.

A casual gathering of old workmates... Some sweets, some savories, some classical music and tales to while away a February Sunday afternoon. No problem, right?

Well, not the first time we did it, anyway. The next year, the table was a BIT more crowded, but there was still room to safely arrange the meatballs and chicken pieces in a chafing dish. And it worked. It did. (No, scout’s honor, it really did.)

And right on schedule, five minutes before guests arrived, I reheated the meats, lit the burners, filled the steam pan with water, added the food trays, and was just topping off the Thai peanut sauce, when I heard this tiny metallic sound...

Closer inspection revealed a pin-sized hole in the side of the tray, spouting boiled water on the lid, (and the tablecloth., and the table, and the floor...) It called to mind one of those garden fountains in the shape of a male toddler.

But I learned...

"If you cannot catch a bird of paradise, better take a wet hen."

-----Nikita Khrushchev

"Translation: Get a bucket from the Colonel, and call it a day."

-----Retired Entertainer