She was known as “The Hostess With the Mostest.” She was on “What’s My Line” as a panelist. She knew Presidents and Ambassadors. She was Jewish. But all I know is that she knew how to throw one helluva wingding. And no one under the age of sixty probably has ever heard of her.
I, on the other hand, could be dubbed “The Hostess With the Least,” or “The UN-Hostess.” My husband suggests at least weekly that it “would be fun to have the ‘So and Soes’ over for dinner,” and my response never varies: “Are you KIDDING?”
It’s because Perle is lurking just there under the surface, mocking me, and most likely raising her eyebrows at my mother up there in heaven. I can’t even think of having anybody over without contemplating all that would be required to elevate my house, my menu, and my wardrobe to Perle and my mother’s standards. If there is one dust ball, or if the rim under the toilet seat has even one dingy area, I am a failure. If there aren’t little things to ‘munch on’ while having wine, I am a failure. If the wine isn’t good, I am a failure. If the cat barfs in the corner the afternoon of the party, and I don’t notice it—one of the guests might, and I am a failure.
My mother and Perle probably had a repertoire of delicious recipes they pulled out when company came over. I am sure that Perle never sent out to the deli for potato salad. I know my mother made delicious chopped liver that she would have LOVED serving to Perle. My family has never had liver, because I forced them all to become vegetarians years ago. Soy pate is awful.
When push finally comes to shove, and I have people over, I do this: I think hard of what to serve for about five minutes, and then I get some rotisserie roast chicken from the store and make a salad with bottled dressing. If I am feeling very ambitious, I make oven roasted asparagus, which is actually delicious and takes 20 minutes. I have a recipe for a foolproof appetizer from a friend, which never fails: one cup of mayo, one cup of shredded Swiss, and one cup of chopped onion. Slosh it around in a pie dish and bake it at 350 degrees for about fifteen minutes or so, and with triscuits, I feel kind of like Perle.
I do a lot of vacuuming and swiffing, I make sure about the downstairs powder room, I huff and puff around, I get a backache, and I swear that I won’t do this again for at least a year. Thus, I like to have all six of my friends over at once, and that kills all the social obligations with one stone.
Perle, may she rest in peace with great big Matzo balls, would certainly not approve. First of all, she would wonder why I have so few friends. Secondly, she would wonder where the dessert course was. And third, she would tell my mother up there that I forgot to get fresh flowers, use some Febreze, and light the candles. My mother would burn with shame. Then she would take Perle by the hand and go sit by Ed Sullivan.