We’ve all had this experience – you are looking for one thing in an old file or seldom-used drawer and you come upon something quite by surprise — which then absorbs all your attention for seemingly hours. Such was the case with a 1992 copy of Southern Accents; I had almost forgotten that this early lifestyle magazine had included an article on me when my two entertaining primers were published.
This proved a lovely bit of serendipity, for the South (my old stomping grounds and from which I hail) is very much on my mind as I prepare for a speaking engagement and book signing in New Orleans on November 10th. As I do, I become very nostalgic about my Southern roots and upbringing. And one overriding memory that always resonates for me is entertaining. It is the backbone of a Southern experience, part of our DNA. And guess what the article was titled — “Savvy Southern Hospitality.”
The article came out 24 years ago ( when I was a brunette…) and yet the philosophy hasn’t changed. The lovely, abiding truth is that the tenets of gracious living stand the test of time.
Inspired by the apricot silk velvet shawl, Pardee used a doré epergne in the centerpiece and Venetian chairs swathed in gold tulle to create a Venetian setting at her parents’ Atlanta home.
Murano glass bonbons are party favors for the guests.
I am excerpting (shown in italics) a few parts of the original article…So much of what I know about entertaining I learned from my mother, Neale Bearden, a stickler for personal details which is what makes a party successful. “Mother is the kind of woman who composes guest lists the way other people work crossword puzzles. She taught me that guests are not one of the most important elements of a party — they are the party. In her own words…’When it’s all over, you won’t remember the food, but you will remember the people, the conversations.’”
And Pardee also keeps a sharp eye on the details. “That separates the gracious host from just another party giver,” she says. “At different stages of planning, you’re a choreographer, a psychologist, an architect, a field marshal — and always a guest at your own party. It’s not just one-dimensional.”
“So instead of thinking about specific rules, I try to take a genuine delight in every step. I like working with the menu, setting a beautiful table, thinking about the music.
Southerners put their heart and soul into entertaining, burnishing this essential of gracious living. Creating occasions and looking for opportunities to entertain comes easily to them. My travels with my book over the last two years have proven so heartwarming as I experience how dear friends express their affection through hospitality. From Dallas to Delray, from Sea Island to Savannah, from Houston to Atlanta, each hostess was making a gesture that is the hallmark of entertaining and a note that I included in that interview in 1992… “guests should feel ‘at home’ and privileged to be there, pampered by your attention and pleased that you are enjoying your own party,” she says.
Is it any wonder that I’m so looking forward to my trip to New Orleans?
I’m closing with a bit of nostalgia…the antique English plates in the Southern Accents picture, borrowed from my mother 24 years ago, were passed down to me. Here, taking pride of place at Parterre for a Thanksgiving dinner.
Featured Image Credit, Maaike Bernstrom.