The Paula Gordon Show
Cultural Communion

Sharing food, according to Linda Eckhardt, is at the very heart of our civilization. "Car food,"-- drive through windows where eating is simply to stuff oneself, to refuel your engine -- is the very antithesis of civilization. And it's very tempting to Americans with overcrowded schedules, limited time and stressed out lives. So Linda has expanded her repertoire from cookbooks to entertaining. What's the catch? Even when people want to share food -- we call it "entertaining" -- many of us no longer know how! Linda and her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, to the rescue.

Linda has written or co-authored more than a dozen cookbooks. She's a contributing editor to Cooking Light magazine and appears on radio and television. She conducts cooking schools. Now she turns her attention and ours to entertaining. The point, Linda maintains, is to have a good time with friends and, believe it or not, family. Share. ĘBe nurtured by and in one's community. Hence, entertaining as the heart of "civilization."

Here's another novel concept. Entertaining should be fun. It can be a joy, not a performance. It should reflect who you are and what you like. Rule 1: take the bores off your list. Have guests participate instead of being observers. They'll have a better time if they have contributed and so will you. Entertain with someone -- share the work, share the fun. Decorate with food and candles and let the event itself take the spotlight. Keep it simple. Linda offers all kinds of suggestions from how to use prepared items in recipes and decorate with from the market to picking wines and cheeses, from simple but elegant courses to how to set the table.

She encourages us to celebrate the "evergreen" holidays -- Valentine's Day to New Year's Day and all the old standards in between -- then invent our own: maybe a Super Bowl Party, an Oscar Party or a Party For No Reason. The point is to get together. Linda goes so far as to include the children! How else are they to learn, she asks?

Linda's urge to entertain and to help us do so too is part of a host of changes in America's changing demographics, our place in the world, our society and culture, and increasingly globalized economies. She gives us all permission to celebrate and offers us the skills with which to do so. So let's have a party!

Linda Eckhardt

. . . is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks. She and her daughter, Katherine West Defoyd, collaborated on Entertaining 101, a guide to entertaining with style and grace. Linda is a contributing editor to Cooking Light and appears regularly on radio, television and in cooking schools. She and her husband live in Ashland, Oregon.

Excerpts3:10 secs

Conversation 1

Linda West Eckhardt describes forces working against "entertaining" for Paula Gordon and Bill Russell. Linda acknowledges today's pressures and time constrains, which are pitted against a deep longing to sit around a table with family and friends. Linda's been writing about food since 1980 and she describes the changes she's seen, noting ways in which Americans have grown more sophisticated about food. ĘShe offers her theories for what has driven these changes.

Conversation 2

Linda's travels include celebrating food. She describes how experience has changed people she knows from the meat-and-potatoes type into gourmet cooks who have fun. She suggests entertaining with someone who will help you do the work. Linda compares the lavish style of Julia Child with today's demands, using beef Wellington as the example. Linda concurs with the idea that good cooking begins in the market. Eat with your eyes as well as your mouth, she suggests. Linda uses her own little mountain town in Oregon as an example of how restaurants have changed in America and offers entertaining secrets from great restaurant kitchens.

Conversation 3

Inviting people into your home is the kindest thing you can do, according to Linda. She offers two rules for insuring you have a good time when you do so. She explains why she and her co-author/daughter suggest you let the food be the star of the show. Linda gives a preview of the 52 menus in Entertaining 101, reminding us that whatever you chose to do should be fun and relaxed. ĘShe suggests one danger of urban life is that we forget the agrarian traditions of hospitality. She tells how being a contributing editor at Cooking Light Magazine influenced her latest cookbook and urges people to exercise "portion control." She offers a recipe for beef tenderloin to made her point.

Conversation 4

Linda describes the "evergreen holidays" -- Valentine's, Easter, St. Pat's Day, the Fourth of July, Back to School, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas -- and suggests new traditions which might occasion entertaining. She offers a formula for how many people to invite to a stand-up party, then tells us what kind of food is appropriate and where to put it in the house. She offers her opinion of why restaurant meals were so popular in the Ô80s and compares culinary habits of those years to today, when things have changed so much that she is urging bringing children to the table. She also offers a commentary on how the changing role of women in our society has affected entertaining.

Linda tells why having dinner catered at home works for some people, but not for her, then applauds the return of the cheese course, describing how to present it tastefully.

Conversation 5

The hors d'oeuvre course is one of Linda's favorites. She suggests good places and recipes to make it more enjoyable. She describes regional differences in how people include alcohol, wine and beer in entertaining and tells us what her current favorites are in sparkling and still wines. ĘShe draws on the expertise of the wine steward who contributed to her book to argue for wines low in alcohol -- he says they marry better with food. Linda tells us what she really thinks about Chardonnays and offers the best way to "decant" wine. The conversation moves on to the maturing wine industry, worldwide.

Linda advocates having guests contribute to any party, moving them from consumers to participants. Modes of transportation getting to the party have surprising implications for the kinds of participation one should solicit. Linda bases her reflections on how entertaining and cooking have changed on successive editions of the Joy of Cooking cookbook.

Conversation 6

Linda shares her secrets for using candles, while arguing for the fundamental value of a sharing community. She tells us why she thinks entertaining and sharing food are at the very heart of civilization.


In addition to bringing her own warmth to our Show, Linda also brought her son and daughter-in-law and expert consultation on Paula's much-loved bread machine. We enjoyed all three!

Additional Links

Entertaining 101 is published by Doubleday.

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