Entertaining With Your Shoes Off Doesn't Equal The Barefoot Contessa

Okay, let’s talk entertaining, but I am not Martha Stewart. I envy the Barefoot Contessa, I’m overwhelmed by Rachel Ray, LOVE Emeril, and want to have my very own Crate & Barrel/Pottery Barn/Williams Sonoma combination of the world’s biggest pantry! I need personal in-home cooking lessons, a maid, two dishwashers, a large patio stocked with wonderful furniture, a personal trainer, and Nate Berkus to redecorate my home. There. That’s not asking too much is it?

I read magazines. I know what my table is supposed to look like; I know what my food is supposed to taste like. I know how my lighting is supposed to affect my ambiance. Trouble is… instead of lovely fall bittersweet colors enhancing my dining room table, I have geometry books, stinky socks, old soccer cleats, and dog toys embellishing my entry way. With two teenagers and two dogs and one pack-rat husband, I’ve abandoned the idea that I’ll ever see the living room floor again. How on earth can I get this place spruced up enough to serve some sort of roasted eggplant dip before the pumpkin squash bisque and lamb chops a la braised beets?

Luckily my friends know that when I call and offer up some last-minute feast at our house, it usually entails a lot of pot luck – their pots and my luck. I’ve finally come to realize that when we open our door to friends and family for any occasion, they expect a warm, lived-in, put-your-feet-up kind of house, and I’m happy to deliver. They know I’m not a terrific cook and have thus come to lower their expectations. They understand that home decorating under Martha’s tutelage is not my forte, and it makes them feel good that my house looks “different” from theirs. (“George, did you see how the kitchen looked? Doesn’t ours look divine in comparison?”)

But, we do have a basement to die for. We can send thirty or forty children down there and not see them for a week. We’ve been known to actually hail an adult back from the front walk and ask her if she has everything… coats, kids, the husband. Between the ping pong, the air hockey, the basketball hoops, the slot machine, the big screen, the comfy furniture and the stocked bar, it’s hard to remember to go back to work on Monday.

So here’s the rub. I fantasize that I’ll one day be able to cook like some of my friends. (Carolyn, you know who you are.) I dream that my counters will be spotless and gleaming and granite. And, I can see the deck and patio and outdoor fireplace in my mind. But in the meantime, I’ve finally come to understand that my entertaining style is unique. I adore the sound of laughter and clanking glasses and kids running and plates being stacked in the sink. My husband and I love to collapse into the hearth room couch with the last glass of wine while the dishwasher hums and congratulate ourselves on a really messy house. My dad used to say that the success of a party could be measured by the noise level during the evening. I’d add that a well-used house is the sign of wonderful, comfortable friends.