Lisa Vanderpump demonstrates exquisite taste in her home and restaurants. With her husband Ken Todd, they have worked their way well into the 1% as restauranteurs. That takes tremendous hard work and talent. To share some of what she has learned through the years, Vanderpump wrote a guide to entertaining with plenty of recipes called Simply Divine: A Guide to Easy, Elegant, and Affordable Entertaining.
Rather than organize it by types of recipes with all the appetizers in the front, she organized it by the mood of the party you might want to host, putting all the contenders for one party in one chapter. This makes it easier for the party host trying to pull together a cohesive menu.
The photos are beautiful and reflect Vanderpump’s personal style of using a near neutral palette of creamy whites and blushing pinks with an eclectic mix of finds from antique stores, flea markets, and boutiques. She urges people not to worry about matching pieces, but instead to focus on getting pieces that are a neutral color. In fact, she says it’s better if they are mismatched.
The first chapters are on planning and presentation. She plans like I do, working backwards. If this needs to be done by this time, then that has to be done by that time. It’s how political campaigns are planned, too. Start at the finish with the number of votes you need and work backwards from there. I really don’t understand how you can plan any other way. These chapters are full of useful tips for arranging flowers, cleaning spills and stains, and otherwise being cool, calm, and gracious while running at high speed underneath.
Her fundamental decency shows through. For example, she takes time out for an insert advising you to tell people they have spinach in their teeth. I don’t know why people wonder whether they should tell someone. Ask yourself, would you rather have the momentary embarrassment of someone telling you or the after-party hours of embarrassment of discovery, wondering how many people saw it without saying a thing? One thing about Vanderpump, even if she cringed inside, she would not call security and throw out a guest that ate a piece of cake frosting before it was served. She knows that entertaining is about being relaxed, welcoming, and kind, not the perfection of the presentation; that it fundamentally about the people, not the picture of the table setting.
She even tell how to organize an elegant formal dinner without killing yourself. She says it’s not a potluck. It’s a potluck without the luck because everyone is assigned to make an appetizer. Assigning what to bring for a potluck is a good idea. One time we had a themed potluck where I worked. The theme was foods that being with the letter “G”. Sadly there was not much gouda, gourds or ground beef but lots and lots of garlic. One of the employees had to go to the ER, it turns out if you eat enough garlic, you can get a scary hot flash.
Simply Divine is a good cookbook and entertaining guide. Vanderpump speaks with the authority of lived experience. It will surprise some who think Vanderpump is some la-di-dah lotus eater. She’s a restauranteur and there is not way to rise in that field without hard labor and long hours of real work. It shows in her tips for making it easier, and for making it seem easier.
The recipes range from simple comfort foods like Yorkshire Pudding, Bangers and Mash, and Shepherd’s Pie to elegant Flourless Chocolate Cake and vibrant Chicken Tikka with Mango Chutney. So if you’re feeling like a cozy party, a sexy party, a party to impress the boss, or bring the family home for the holidays, or a party for a hot summer’s day, she has ideas and recipes for a warm, welcoming, successful result.
There is one thing that does not ring true, though. Here and there are little interjections from her pet Pomeranian Giggy. They are quite twee, but considering how that little dog has everyone in his world catering to his every whim, I would think he spends his time thinking about whether it is impossible to prove any certain truth, also known as the Münchhausen trilemma.