Food, security and love are, for me, intertwined. The former can be an expression of the latter and they all combine to make you feel safe. Surely there is nothing more comforting than the smell of baking bread or a roasting chicken wafting through your home, or even the sound and scent of jam bubbling on the hob? A house in which food is prepared and cooked – as opposed to just unwrapped or heated up – is, to me, the very essence of home. Such sensory considerations are, I believe, far more important than how a space looks. I’m sure you’ve occasionally visited a house where visual perfection of a sort reigned, everything being just so, and yet it felt uncomfortable or awkward to be there. Homes are not galleries, they are for living in – and life is often messy and complicated, but ultimately, one hopes, rich and rewarding. Our homes should reflect this. I’m not saying you should abandon all order – it is always essential to begin with a plan (and, Lord knows, I could pen great tracts on the necessity of alignment!) – but truly living well must allow for an element of disruption and room for the unexpected.
Add to this the fact that there are few things more convivial than inviting friends into your abode to eat with you, and the scene is set for happy times indeed. To be clear, I’m talking relaxed suppers and laid-back lunches here, not complicated, multi-cookbook-juggling, show-off-y dinners around tables dressed like bad Christmas trees. Entertaining at home should be easy and
fun: it’s about enabling conversation and encouraging people to feel relaxed; it’s not about display or one-upmanship. It can be as simple as tea drunk from pottery mugs and home-made cake eaten with fingers, or soup in wobbly bowls alongside hot buttery toast on platters. But however you go about it, and whatever you eat, it should be done with feeling.
Why, though, am I talking so much about food? Because this month, in our inaugural ELLE Decoration entertaining special, we explore the art of eating in – in other words, how to entertain at home, the ELLE Decoration way. I hope you enjoy it. After all, as the great American newspaper columnist Harriet Van Horne once wrote: ‘Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.’ Or to come at it from a different angle: if you fill your home with food and love, the rest of life will surely be easier.
And so, dear readers, this is my last letter for a while as I head off for my biggest challenge yet: motherhood. But rest assured, when the urge to pontificate/rant gets too great, I shall post on my blog, so I’ll see you there, before I see you back here after my maternity leave. Meanwhile, I wish you happy eating, great home-making, smart buying and beautiful living!
First published as my Editor’s Letter in the June 2014 edition of ELLE Decoration UK
My last issue before maternity leave. Cover changed by incoming ‘editor’. Loathed.