Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Entertaining Tips From A Swiss Hostess

Mother Fromage 
Everything I know about hostessing comes from my mother who was born in Geneva. To most, she was known as “The Frau” – she was a strict-as-nails German teacher in our midwestern hometown. To my brother and I, she was Julia Child crossed with Nancy Sinatra. She loved high boots, and she was always cooking.

My brother André and I were her sous chefs. In the ‘70s, we whipped cream for her gourmet club tortonis; in the ‘80s, our mother discovered the Moosewood Cookbook and we became her renegade vegetable peelers. When our mother entertained, the house had to be spotless, the lighting perfect. André and I cued the right records, served drinks (usually in costume), and made sure all the teak furniture legs were feather dusted.

Now that André and I are grown, we laugh at the hostessing traits we have inherited. Our mother taught us something beyond Swiss fastidiousness; she taught us how to stage domestic bliss, with all the right candles and details. Mother Fromage arrives tomorrow. You can imagine what I am doing right now. That’s right, putting a chocolate on her pillow.

Ten Tips From A Swiss Hostess

1.    Always keep a Ziploc bag of cigarettes in the door of your freezer. Defrost one as necessary, before or after guests arrive. (This is André's flourish.)

2.   Candles on the table always. Fresh flowers, too. Carnations are economical; they will last a month.

3.   Leave chocolates on pillows, sparkling water by guest beds.

4.   Never eat anything under bright lighting. Dimmers, people, dimmers!

5.    Cook in the dark, or near darkness. It feels more sensual that way.

6.   Plan surprise readings over dinner – poems by Emily Dickinson are fun to say, especially after a few glasses of wine.

7.   Avoid the hair-pulling task of making pie crusts

8.   Swearing in the kitchen only, please.

9.   Serve hot drinks in the afternoon when people get cranky. Make paper hats.

10.  A cheese board for lunch means you don’t have to cook two big meals.

My mother lives in Wisconsin where she is close to the dairy epicenter. My brother blogs at As you can see, he inherited the Swiss upper lip and the widow's peak.

Here we all are, two winters ago. Note the flowers, the lighting. 


  1. Darn! Flowers, that's what I forgot at our party... Lighting was definitely dim in the room with the food though.

  2. What a wonderful story. Enjoy your time together over these holidays!