Friday, August 7, 2009

Be the Best Guest

By Millicent K. Brody

It’s the summer season which means you're likely to either have houseguests or be one yourself.

Because of the economy, many people have had to tighten their belts. They’ve traded being travelers for being spongers. According to the Random House College Dictionary, “Sponging” guests live at the expense of others. Spongers never make formal reservations. They go “Guesting”.

What most spongers do is set up a network of homes in a general area. Using their host home as a base, they get to travel and visit at the expense of others.

When you’re a guest in someone’s home, it’s important to keep the social niceties in mind. Or at least remember two rules: don’t be an inconvenience, and don’t overstay your welcome. Remember the witticism first made by Plautus in about 200 B.C., perfected by John Lyly in 1580, and recorded by Ben Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac, “Guests are like fish, after three days, they stink.”

Nothing infuriates most host families more than shopping and planning for guests to arrive in time for dinner, only to receive a phone call about noon with the bold question, “What’s for lunch?”

That’s the situation a friend of mine found herself in recently. She obligingly trotted off to the deli for turkey, cheese, and bread, but a good guest should really find a place to have lunch, and then arrive at the house afterwards for a relaxing afternoon. In my friend’s case, she had barely finished cleaning up from lunch before she had to start dinner.

While peeling potatoes, she happened to notice her friend’s partner catching a snooze. Being a good hostess, she wandered into the den and quietly asked, “Ralph, would you like to take a nap?”

“You wouldn’t mind?” he asked.

“Of course not, why should I? Just walk into the guest bedroom and close the door.”

As soon as Mr. Guest entered the bedroom, he hurried back into the kitchen.

“You’re not expecting me to sleep in a double bed?” he asked rather seriously.

“Well, as a matter of fact, that’s the only bed we have in our only guest room,” my friend replied.

“I sleep in a King size bed at home,” countered Mr. Guest. “I don’t know how I’ll manage in a double bed.”

My friend smile sweetly and told him:

“You can certainly sleep in a King-size bed. There’s a really nice motel about five minutes from here. I know they don’t book-up during the week. Here’s the number, give them a call.”

Obviously, he did not leave. Nor did he volunteer to assist with doing the dishes, or remember to pick up his clothing, strewn throughout the house. However, he did remember to let my dear friend know that he’d be back, same time next year!

How to be a Good Guest

* Arrive when you say you will, and leave when you’re supposed to.
* Don’t create additional work. Keep the guest room neat. Notice what needs to be done, and do it. Don’t be afraid to offer to prepare a meal or baby sit.
* Don’t surprise your host and hostess with your children or pets--unless they were invited.
* Don’t arrive with a list of social engagements and expect your host to drive you everywhere. If you want to see special friends, make plans to stay at their home.
* In addition to taking a lovely house gift, plan to take your host and hostess out for dinner.
* Don’t complain.
* Even if the bed squeaks and the toilet overflows, don’t forget to send a thank-you note. After all, you may want to return. Good guests do receive rewards. They get invited back.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Eat Your Vegetables

By Judith Garfield

Lately I have been trying to eat healthy(er).

This means less white (sugar, flour), more bright (fruits and vegetables). I love eating healthily, but it means I must…wait for it…cook. My husband makes delicious meals; however, healthy is not a big priority for him. Even if a recipe does not include a lot of butter he will add it. This is also a man whose staples include Wonder Bread and peanut butter, and only the kind that Annette Funicello used to sell. He’s a loyal Mouseketeer. And he gets very cranky if his ice cream is without a whip: Dream, Cool or Redi.

When I really feel the need for a flavorful, low-fat vegetarian meal, it’s up to me. So I was very happy my good friend M. came over last week, looked at my hugely overgrown garden and said, “Judy, time to make the ratatouille.” My husband snickered, but could not stop saying the word in his best (i.e.) annoying French accent. For those of you unfamiliar with the word, the phonetic pronunciation is Rat-a-too-ee. Have fun saying it over and over to whoever is pretending not to hear you.

I missed Ratatouille, the animated Disney film about Remy, the rat who wants to be a chef. I heard it was charming, but after living thirty years in Manhattan the last thing I wanted to see in my kitchen was a rat.

This is a dish that lends itself to improvisation, and there are hundreds of recipes you can find. It’s a perfect dish for mid to late summer when tomatoes, eggplant, and squash are in season. It’s a one pot or skillet meal, cooks in less than thirty minutes, and contains not one white ingredient.


In a skillet, heat olive oil, garlic, and a sliced onion until it is transparent. Add the following diced ingredients:

1 Eggplant

1 yellow squash

a container of sliced mushrooms

1 red pepper

4 tomatoes (fresh if you have them or one 14-ounce can diced)

small jar of pitted calamato olives (drained and cut in half)

Cover and simmer till everything is tender. Season with salt and pepper and lots of oregano. Red pepper flakes if you like it hot. Garnish with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Aging Gracefully

By Maureen C. Petrosky

The oldest wine I have ever set eyes on, swirled, and swooned over was 129 years old. For someone who usually raves over the freshness and energy of wine, you wouldn’t think this ol’ vino would have anything for me to write home about, but here I am giving props to old Lucy. That’s right, she has a name. Many do at Domaine de la Coume du Roy in Maury, France, where the vintages in which a child was born carry their namesake and the original wooden barrel with Lucy’s is still right in place. Even with 129 years in the barrel this old gal has life, body, and structure which was truly, truly amazing. This was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for me, but the great news is, there are plenty of other, more recent vintages with just as much if not more pizazz and panache for you to enjoy.

Domaine de la Coume du Roy makes the red Maury fortified wine from 100% black Grenache grapes and a sultry white aperitif of Muscat de Rivesaltes that are both to die for. Even if sweet wine is not your thing, get a little crazy and treat yourself to a taste. It is swimsuit season after all, and either of these makes the perfect pick for a fat- free dessert. Even a girl like me who lives for acidity can’t pass up dessert. Luckily, winemaker Agnes Bachelet knows it’s not all about the sugar and is still pouring up sweet sips complete with acidity and backbone. Enjoy it alone or with a baguette and a hunk of Roquefort for a simply divine culinary indulgence.

La Coume du Roy, Maury, 2004, $29 In an appropriately sized 500ml, bottle this dessert wine rocks with chocolate or cheese and is even fun served with a little chill to it. Serve to your dinner guests with a cheese course or save it for yourself. I can vouch these wines have the stamina to go the distance in the cellar and can deliver even after being opened for up to fourteen months. Go ahead: you deserve it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What Were They Thinking?

By Brianne Harrison

We’ve all been there: seen someone walking down the street, in a movie, or--dare we admit it?—looked at old pictures of ourselves and cringed, wondering what on earth made that outfit seem appealing at the time. When it comes to fashions of the past, that reaction becomes very common indeed. What made the giant shoulderpads of the 1980’s or the torturously corseted bodies of the 19th and early 20th centuries seem like a good idea?

That’s the question “What Were They Thinking? 160 Years of Bad Taste” sets out to explore. The show, currently on at the Carriage House Gallery at the Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May, leaps nimbly through fashion history, touching on the hoopskirts of the mid-19th century to the crinolines and beehives of the 50’s to 90’s bling and millennial pocket dogs. See how fashion evolved with the times, becoming looser or more rigid as society dictated.

If you’re in the mood for more history after seeing this exhibit, stop by “HERstory”, a new tour at the estate that explores the changing roles of women in the Victorian era, a time when, even though a woman ruled the largest and most powerful empire in the world, her contemporaries were told to stay in their parlors and be pretty and quiet. Not all of them were content with that. Learn about both the ideal Victorian ladies and the tough women who fought against their traditional roles and created the first Women’s Movement.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cooking With the Seasons Along the Canal

By Pat Tanner

In the introduction to Canal House Cooking, the first in a series of seasonal cookbooks by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hersheimer, these two women describe themselves as “home cooks.” Indeed they are. As Ms. Hersheimer told me, “Like everyone, we face putting meals on the table for our families every day while working long hours. We leave here at 7 p.m. - if we’re lucky - asking ourselves, ‘what’s in my fridge and on my shelves?’ We also know what is available at the supermarket. Ours is a very practical and accessible book. It is truly how we cook.”

Yes, but each woman has also enjoyed a successful career at the top of the food-publishing world. Hersheimer was one of the founders and an executive editor of Saveur magazine, where Hamilton ran the test kitchen and served as food editor. Together the pair has more than 30 years experience working with magazines such as Metropolitan Home, Food and Wine, Cook’s Illustrated, and Martha Stewart Living and on cookbooks by Julia Child, Alice Waters, Mario Batali, Jacques Pepin, Lidia Bastianich, and other notables.

In 2007 they established their own studio alongside the D&R canal in tiny Lambertville, where they specialize in food photography and styling and cookbook design and writing. Including, now, their own.

Volume one of Canal House Cooking focuses on their favorite summer recipes, with names like Tomatoes All Dressed Up for Summer and Raspberry Sandwiches. Three books a year are planned. Next up is Fall/Holiday (due out in mid-October), followed by Winter/Spring. For a glimpse at the stylish, easy, and eye-popping recipes, visit Check out the recipe for Melon Water, a summer cooler made with or without rum. At this time of year, who can resist a recipe that begins, “Crack open a ripe melon…”?