Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dinner Party, the Informal, Pain-Free Way

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dinner Party, the Informal, Pain-Free Way

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Macdonald, Times-Union food editor

Imagine this nightmare: It's Saturday afternoon and a ringing phone awakens you from a nap. The voice on the other end asks when he should show up for that evening's dinner party.

You're startled out of your half-conscious state when you remember that you invited six people to a dinner party at your house.

You totally and absolutely had forgotten about it.

No, this didn't happen to me. But it did happen to New York Times food columnist and cookbook author Mark Bittman.

He recalls this phone call in the introduction in his new book, The Minimalist Entertains (Broadway Books, $26).

For those not familiar with Bittman, he has made a career out of simplifying recipes without substantially changing the flavor.

As it turned out, Bittman hosted a pleasant party, and all guests were fed, made merry and entertained. It was after literally "throwing" together a party in a couple of hours, rather than spending days worrying about it, that Bittman came to the revelation that ". . . it was my own standards, and not those of my guests, that made me work like a fiend and worry neurotically."

You could say Bittman was scared straight into enjoying his own parties.

Today, a party at the Bittman residence is a casual affair, he said when we talked last week. Most of the time he sets up a buffet that is spread over a couple of rooms and encourages guests to wander about sampling food and sitting wherever they find a suitable spot.

"The reason that cocktail parties work is that people circulate and talk to different people," he said. "Dinner parties don't work 50 percent of the time because I get sandwiched next to a person who is driving me crazy."

Bittman says that he cooks the way he lives. It's an extension of his personality.

"The way I cook for people is much different from the way that Martha Stewart claims to cook for people. …

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