A lot of people I know are cutting back on entertaining due to financial reasons. Obviously, we are all watching our pennies right now, but I don't think we should curtail entertaining at home. If anything, now is the time that we should focus on what's really important: spending time with family and friends.
As I've gotten older, I've learned to relax and not be so uptight about having people into my home. I do think (or at least hope) that my home is warm and inviting, but I can say that it is not by any means perfect. As I'm writing this, my powder room has partially removed wallpaper. It ain't pretty, but it has not stopped me from having people in. I consider the wallpaper a temporary situation, and people who know me know that I will one day soon have a remodeled powder room.
The other thing that I'm more laid back about is food. Food does not have to be fancy- only tasty. I love putting on a spread for people, but there are times when it's fun just to relax and enjoy some conviviality with one's friends. And this leads me to the point of this post. When did the cocktail hour get so elaborate? Sure it's fun to assemble a platter of antipasto. And what's better than sharing caviar with your guests? But for those on a budget or who are trying to be less uptight, there is nothing wrong with serving the basics. Such as ... Ritz crackers or Triscuits.
Just look at the gorgeous Horst photo above, taken in 1963 at the Long Island home of Consuelo Balsan. What are those crackers in the Chinese dish on the beautiful tray table which rested on the gorgeous Aubusson rug? Ritz crackers! Truly, have you ever met anyone who didn't like Ritz crackers?
And what about Triscuits? In Susanna Salk's paean of everything WASP, A Privileged Life: Celebrating Wasp Style, Salk writes of memories of "Triscuits with Cracker Barrel Cheese and warm white wine in plastic tumblers." I don't remember the warm white wine so much, but heaven knows that I've eaten a lot of Triscuits and Cracker Barrel Extra-Sharp Cheddar in my day. And don't forget that the only crackers you can serve with cream cheese and pepper jelly- the old stand-by served by all Southern Belles and Gents- are Triscuits.
Now, I'm not saying that you should forgo elegant entertaining altogether. I actually regret that formal entertaining is not as fashionable as it once was. But, when you're having good friends and family over for a few casual drinks, give yourself a break and pull out the box of Ritz.
According to an old New York magazine article, Albert Hadley served a bowl of unsalted Triscuits to the journalist interviewing him. Yet another reason to love Mr. Hadley.
I don't think Triscuits and Ritz were around in 1941 when Dorothy Draper wrote Entertaining is Fun!: How to Be A Popular Hostess, but she was pretty down to earth with her advice. For harried hosts and hostesses who were faced with unexpected guests, she suggested serving English muffins with sliced ham and grilled mushrooms. Were Dorothy alive today, I think she'd just say to serve some cheese and crackers and call it a day.
Sister Parish was one character who I wish I had been able to meet. One of her favorite drinks was vodka with ice and a dash of Clamato. She also on occasion served appetizers of ham wrapped around a pickle with some cream cheese, cut on the diagonal, as well as peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. And based on what has been written, people loved her get-togethers...even the food!