Entertaining for me isn’t just about the food. Of course I want the food to be delicious, but what’s even more important to me is the company. When you cook, everyone shows up! I want my guests to feel like family, so I entertain at the kitchen table rather than in the dining room. The atmosphere is so much more intimate, and I can still be at the party while I’m preparing dinner. Rather than making elegant food designed to impress my guests, I stick to earthy, comforting dishes that everyone will love. I don’t want my friends looking at their plates and wondering what that green thing is in the octopus salad! I like my friends to be relaxed and happy with their dinners of roast chicken with caramelized carrots and creamy buttermilk mashed potatoes. That’s when people are truly at ease and when the real conversations start.
As hosts my husband, Jeffrey, and I feel responsible for making each evening special. It’s easy to have a fun night with friends, sitting around gossiping and telling funny stories, but we also want to have an evening that’s soul satisfying, when people leave thinking about the conversation. It’s the controversial subjects that end up making everyone feel connected to one another. There’s no harder subject than end-of-life care, but it’s also something to which each of us has given a lot of thought. When we share those thoughts, not only do we inform our friends how we feel, but we also feel closer to those people who are willing to share their intimate thoughts with us. That’s when true friendship really happens.
New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite holidays, so in 1999 Jeffrey and I decided to ring in the new millennium with some of our dearest friends. I asked my guests what their favorite dessert was, and the unanimous answer was croissant bread pudding, so that’s exactly what I made. This is the essence of my cooking style. I love to take something traditional and put a surprise twist on it so that the dish is familiar but better than expected. We’ve all had bread pudding made with plain old white bread, but mine is made with croissants instead of bread, rich custard with lots of really good vanilla, and a light dusting of powdered sugar at the end. It’s the ultimate comfort food, and it was perfect for the setting of us talking about what we wished for in the new millennium.
I hope we can all find the right setting—and the right comfort food—to have the endof-life conversation with the people we love. It’s not only good to share our feelings, but when the time comes, the people close to us won’t be anguished wondering what to do to care for us. They will have the comfort of knowing exactly what we want—and that’s a true gift to someone you love.