2013-12-11 / Columns

Time for a confession from this recovering hostess


Hi, my name is Sally, and I’m a recovering hostess.

I am standing before a kitchen sink loaded with dirty dinner plates and a counter strewn with assorted debris saying, “Never again!”

And even as I say it, I know it’s a bald-faced lie.

Of course I will be entertaining the family again. I will soon enough forget the exhaustion of the cleaning, the shopping for obscure ingredients, the arguments with my husband about why I am not being crazy to repaper the breakfast room and recarpet the back stairs the week before the family descends.

Do I need Aunt Helen to cast a sweeping glance at the myriad of things I’ve, shall we say, “let go?”

Do I need Cousin Lois to raise those famous arched eyebrows because the den curtains are so faded?

It’s easier to combine the family party with some teeny-weeny redecorating projects than to endure the whispers. Every woman alive understands. Few men do.

Then there’s the self-recrimination about the menu.

Carol is vegetarian. Arthur is strictly a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. My sister won’t touch meat, but would be lost without a huge salad. Jane is seriously dieting. Jack thinks no meal is complete without at least 17 desserts.

So yes, I’ve been mildly concerned for the past three weeks about what to serve the family. Translation: I haven’t slept in 21 nights.

My daughters say I have pathology about pleasing others. Meanwhile, they issue their own culinary requests:

Amy can’t believe that I’m not making the noodle pudding that she has loved since her toddler days.

Jill suggests that I repeat the 16-ingredient spinach soufflé that was such a hit several years ago.

By the day of the family party, I have tested so many recipes from so many cookbooks that my own taste buds are numb. I’ve gained six pounds. Endless culinary trials and errors have yielded up a menu that is bound to offend someone.

An hour before the clan is to gather, I am like a woman possessed. I hate the way the table looks. I despise the way my hair turned out and I feel fat.

Besides, the sweet potato casserole does not look a bit like it did on the pages of the New York Times food section.

But despite my obsessing— despite my high anxiety about the slightly frou-frou feel of the new curtains and my certainty that the store delivered the wrong carpeting for the back steps—the family party turns out to be quite wonderful.

We talked and ate and laughed and remembered the ties that bind us.

So even as a recovering hostess, I can feel those dangerous words forming on my lips again.

“Let’s get together soon. Our place, of course!” .

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