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    Make yourself at home

    Alice is thinking about Martha Stewart and the 80s:

    It [Entertaining] is a great book, from a time when being completely over the top extravagance was just about to become more socially acceptable than it has ever been since (the 80s), and I wish Martha had just continued right into that stratosphere instead of becoming more small-scale domestic, but then everyone else downsized too, so one can hardly blame her for that. “The most sumptuous book on entertaining ever published” says the back cover, and when I read it as a teenager teaching myself to cook it seemed entirely fantastical and extraordinary: who were these people who threw “A sit-down country luncheon for one hundred seventy-five” in their back garden? Who would make eleven kinds of tiny weeny cocktail snacks for fifty guests? A gingerbread mansion for “The holiday party”, complete with pediment, finials and cupola plus internal lighting? The mile-high lemon meringue pie- “My mother and I baked it when we had extra egg whites on hand, and made a meringue as high as the oven would allow”- went on my mental list of lifetime ambitions, along with plenty of other things nobody in England had heard of in 1982- pissaladiere, tabbouleh, filo pastry, tempura, and on and on.

    I’m with her–aspiration is a good thing. They’re broadcasting Nigella Lawson’s show here in Japan now. It’s fun to watch. Well, I don’t think it’s necessary to put green chilis in every freaking main dish. I also tire of her constant need to use olive oils “infused” with leafy green crap. And the I’m-just-bopping-around-my-home-kitchen-as-I-do-every-day vibe is ruined by the way she, like, makes raspberry sauce while wearing a pink cashmere twinset with no apron.

    But the most annoying thing is the way she’s always talking about how informal and easy and spontaneous cooking can be. I realize that she (and Martha and Delia and the others) are dealing with an audience that’s used to living on prepared food. You’ll just scare the bejeezus out of such people if you start at service à la russe; even so, must we go full tilt in the opposite direction and make everything out to be so accessible all the time? Atsushi and I entertain a lot–I cook and he socializes. (Imagine the disaster that would ensue if we switched duties, huh, darling?) It is indeed nice to have people over for drippy, luscious comfort food that can be pitched into bowls any old way and enjoyed while the wine and conversation flow all relaxed-like; but it can also be a real pleasure to deliver something to the table that’s clearly been in the works for a week.

    Anyway, Alice has more to say about inquisitiveness and inventiveness in general.

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