When Amy Sedaris isn't busy being a fancy-pants television star or a crafty-pants cult hero, she may commonly be found entertaining guests at home, possibly with rabbits, possibly while wearing pantyhose. Her love of entertaining (and rabbits, and pantyhose) is what prompted her to pen and publish her 2005 home-entertaining hit, I Like You: Hospitality under the Influence, released last month in paperback.
I received I Like You in hardcover from my wife, Kitty, for Christmas. I wasn't expecting the book to be informative. Sure, funny, but not necessarily helpful. Yet upon perusing the pages, I found some amazing, simple recipes, great tips on hosting a party, and way more than I wanted to know about women's health and support leg wear. Looking back on it now, I have a sneaking suspicion that Kitty bought this book for herself. Nevertheless, as we began to create "The Mercury 's Guide to Food and Entertaining," I knew Sedaris was one expert I needed to consult.
Some of the most important advice in I Like You has to do with host self-realization. "The goal is to entertain, not overtain," and "You don't have to be the perfect host, just the prettiest," are two bon mots that go a long way in explaining the Sedaris philosophy.
We asked Sedaris what she thought was the most important thing for Mercury readers to remember when planning a party: "That they need to cast it," she responded, taking time out of a busy traveling schedule. "Really think about who you are inviting—it's the people on your list that will make or break your party." To that end, her book suggests that readers not invite both an astrologer and an astronomer, or a serial killer and a drunken teenager.
But once you have cast your party and guests begin arriving, how do you know you're on the right track? "The first 15 minutes is a good indicator," Sedaris says. And if things look like they're going to turn out poorly? "This is why I like to include a cut-off time" for the event.
There are some who believe that bringing drugs to a party is the surest way to make it a success. "If you're going to be doing drugs, you must share them with your hostess," Sedaris says. As for drinking, "I'm not a big drinker," she admits, "but I always have alcoholic beverages if someone wants a drink. I also always have non-alcoholic beer. Drinking too much is never a good idea, it can ruin a party."
While Sedaris and the Mercury may not see eye to eye on that last point, we can at least agree on what kind of music to play. Sedaris suggests "music without words," going on to explain that "music can get too distracting. Don't let it dominate the room."
So, a well-cast party, a few drugs shared with the hostess, and some light, wordless music will go a long way to a memorable event, but there are a few more things that will add just the right touch. A centerpiece, for example. "I continue to use those tissue paper centerpieces that you buy at party stores," Sedaris says. "I save all mine and use them over and over again. You can find some really fun ones on eBay too." Something about a centerpiece just means you care, according to Sedaris. "I love to see other people's centerpieces. I like that they take the time to think about it."
In our brief correspondence, Sedaris also spoke of the challenge of creating a menu. To get you off on the right foot, Sedaris agreed to share with Mercury readers the recipe for her Lil' Smoky Cheese Ball. Go ahead, combine it with some of the other great recipes in this issue, gather your cast, and go to town.
Amy Sedaris' Lil' Smoky Cheese Ball
This little (lil'?) wonder is described by Sedaris as "a combination of cheeses shaped into a ball and then rolled in nuts." Really, nothing gets a party going faster than having a celebrity's balls in your mouth.
2 cups shredded smoked Gouda
16 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 tbs. milk
2 1/2 tsp. steak sauce
1 cup chopped nutsBring all ingredients to room temperature. Add milk and steak sauce to cheeses and butter and beat until completely blended. Chill overnight. Turn it into a ball the next morning. Roll it in nut mixture. Serve it at room temperature, spread on a Ritz.(reprinted with permission from author)
More great tips can be found in I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, available at any area bookstore. Just maybe hold off on buying it for your boyfriend or husband. Unless he's into that kind of thing.