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Looking Back and ...Moving Forward!

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Just before New Year’s Eve there is a lull in the festivities… travels and weather play

havoc with our plans and I often find myself having a few minutes to reminisce about

years past. A house full of family and friends has triggered me to look back on the high

points of my entertaining life. Welcoming friends and family at home is still wondrous

and exciting. Whether large scale or just for 4, welcoming guests is always a pleasure.

I have been entertaining friends and family since my early twenties (for quite some time

now) and have collected a large repertoire of recipes and table setting ideas for which I

am constantly solicited. Guests at my table enjoy themselves not just because they like

the food or find my table pretty but rather a synthesis of elements that show I have

actually made an effort to entertain them. I do not pore over the stove for days, nor do I

arrange every last flower like a soldier at attention. What I do is plan fun get-togethers

that are quick so that I can spend time with my boys, entertaining so that my husband

doesn’t throw me out of the house, and lastly innovative/elegant/flair to satisfy my

creative side.

An interest in appearances is not so shallow as one might think. I was fortunate enough to

grow up in Madrid and Seville in privileged circumstances. And what I learned at home I

now consider the basics of entertaining: simple excellent food paired with genuine

graciousness, an inclusive sense of etiquette, and as anyone who has been to Spain knows

a great deal of convivial conversation. Throwing a good dinner or lunch is not about

advancing one’s position, nor impressing your friends, it is about making bonds that last

in even the most minute way.

Over the years, my life has changed dramatically and I am now a very busy wife, mother

of two teenage boys, manager of two households, and founder of a rapidly expanding

artisanal food brand. Miraculously, my love of entertaining endures. 

Growing up I was a spectator to many grand gatherings at my parent’s home that my mother pulled off with

remarkable ease. Looking back, I now remember the half dozen servants, my mother’s

vegetable garden in Seville with every type of vegetable and fruit, and the cupboards of

china, crystal and silverware. With that support system, of course she could do it! The

most important lesson my mother thought me is the art of the menu selection. The dishes

have to complement each other, the meal has to be looked as a whole rather than

individual dishes as variations, colors and textures are essential for a successful meal.

At Arenales my parent’s ancient country house outside of Seville the walls are covered

17th century tiles depicting country life in fantastic hues of blue, yellow and green. There

is one room I am particularly enchanted with and it is the hunting room where my mother

has mounted a few generations worth of (hunting and) bull fighting trophies on the walls.

My parents both grew up with wonderful things and at Arenales they pull out all of the

stops. It was there, where the Infanta Elena of Spain celebrated the eve of her wedding.

750 european royals arrived at two in the afternoon and the last guests left at two in the

morning. In between there was what one could call a celebration of all things Spanish.

The food was perfect country cooking, from egg and potato tortilla and ham croquetas to

a fully loaded paella. Naturally enough the entertainment was flamenco And, the setting

was my late father’s bullring festooned with red geraniums and olive trees. The guests

could not have been more aristocratic and royal but the sheer numbers made my mother

concoct a simple plan that came off as extraordinary due to its scope.

I started entertaining 20 odd years ago in a romantic turn of the century ballroom

(actually its own separate structure) that my ex-husband and I rented in a derelict Tuxedo

Park estate. In order to avoid bike rides with my husband that led over hill and dale I

started to stay at home and plan dinner parties for our friends: cooking and entertaining

became my favorite way to spend the weekends. For the most part the dinners were

simple affairs but the setting was magical. I especially recall wintertime when most of the

ballroom had no heat and I became a specialist in stews and other warming one-pot

dinners. At times it was so frigid that I had to put blankets and shawls on the backs of the

chairs so that my guests wouldn’t freeze. That stage gave way to other more adventurous

meals. Soon, I was on my way to becoming a true hostess in the best sense of the word.

I lived in New York City from 1983 to 1997 where I worked in a variety of jobs that have

helped me immensely. I began my working career with a misstep at Martha, a couture

salon on Park Avenue. After two weeks there, I was fired for having spent to much time

talking with boyfriends, dressing like a customer and not a salesgirl and finally for not

using the employee exit when I rushed out of the shop to greet the Queen of Spain! A few

other fashionable jobs led me to the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya where I worked in Corporate

Promotion or what I call “girlie banking.” That was a position where I excelled in

entertaining bank clients on both small and large scales. I planned large corporate events

and sent the out right gifts from the president’s office. I then moved on to an even more

entertaining job at a private law firm that represented Latin American clients in the US

and Spain. Both of these jobs were immensely educational for me and built up my

confidence in entertaining. I’ve continued learning from friends and my library of

cookbooks that I consult and actually love to read.

I married C. Minot Amory in 1995, moved to Palm Beach and that began another era. We

both grew up in fabulous households and are determined to continue that tradition. Minot

loves to eat well and entertain a crowd. Our lives, of course, are different in the twentyfirst

century and we treasure time with our sons and time for ourselves. I might be

arriving from Spain at one in the afternoon, and Minot might be inviting four for dinner

that evening, news of which sends me straight to Costco to fill the larder. At home I use

my own brand of condiments to elevate everyday ingredients, chop the vegetables,

marinate the fish and take a nap to collect myself. Most of my dinners take just a few

hours to prepare and the table, while elaborate, gets set by pure instinct. The guests arrive

at about 8:15 and the first course is at the table around 9:00. Just enough time to reacquaint

ourselves, tell a few jokes and have a glass of wine. Dinner usually proceeds

like clockwork but if there is a mix up I can take it and I make the best of it. A perfect

example being my fallen soufflé that started as an accident but is now de riguer.

Cutting back on cooking time allows me the luxury of having my nails done, taking the

aforementioned nap or spend time with the boys. I have dozens of logical shortcuts

ranging from using frozen pearl onions (who has the time to peel a 150 onions?), to

keeping a well-stocked kitchen. And as long as I am lighting the stove I usually make

extra sauce to get another meal or two out of it, bake an extra chicken or roast a few more

vegetables for tomorrow.

I truly enjoy all aspects of preparing for a party: making lists, sending invitations,

planning the menu, shopping for food, and decorating the house. Most of all, I adore

welcoming friends to our home.

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