The Party Girl Cookbook

by Nina Lesowitz and Lara Morris Starr

Published by Conari Press

336 pages, 1999


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Party Grrrlz Handbook

Reviewed by Monica Stark

 

There is a certain one of my friends who (I won't mention any names, but she knows who she is) is not allowed to peek at The Party Girl Cookbook. In fact, with any luck at all, she won't even know it exists. (So I'll review quietly.) All of this evasion is to save myself and others among our mutual friends from the surefire embarrassment and perhaps even discomfort that will follow if she ever gets wind of this chunky volume. I'm hiding the book as I write.

Last May, it was at her house that I attended my first ever Oscar Night party. Complete with computer-generated ballots and entrees developed in honor of the competing movies (Thin Red Line Potatoes, anyone?). On Halloween, we were treated to a house decorated with cobwebs and enough pumpkins to fuel a three week run of a Charlie Brown special. I won't even go into the summertime details: enough luaus and pineapple tosses and bad recordings of Don Ho to make you wonder if you didn't somehow take a wrong turn and end up in Blue Hawaii sans Elvis (but don't give her any ideas).

When I started reading The Party Girl Cookbook I groaned: it is for this friend that this book was written. Her and all those others like her for whom a party is not a party without a theme, a lot of activity and some matching food.

The Party Girl Cookbook bills itself as, "Your COMPLETE GUIDE to throwing a smashing bash, with ideas for themes, invitations, costumes, and more than 150 recipes." And -- dagnab it! -- it is. Conveniently divvied up into months so that you can dial-a-theme with very little effort, each section includes how to deal with invitations; decorations; games and activities; costumes; favors and prizes; musical suggestions; and -- of course -- food.

Not sure what to do with yourself in January because -- for many of us -- it's cold and yucky outside? Then just try throwing a "We Be Jammin'" Jamaican beach party. The authors write:

An indoor beach party with a generous shake of island spice is a great way to get in out of the cold. Don't let the nip in the air keep you from having a sun-splashed bash. With the Party Girl's creative tips and twists, you can create a tropical paradise right in your own living room.

Decorating tips for this particular party include covering the floors and tables with "bright, colorful beach towels," and "replace and augment your current table and chairs with folding beach chairs and lawn furniture." There's more -- a lot more -- but you get the idea.

The food is theme-appropriate, as well. Of course. Rasta Pasta, Reggae Rounds, Spinach Spliffs and other concoctions aimed to help create the beach party theme.

Not only is the book themed, it's targeted, too. It's clear from first contact that the book is intended to not only illustrate what a superior creature the party girl is, but also to help the wannabe reader become a better one.

This snippet from the introduction is a good example of the overall tone. Here we're learning how to act at other people's parties, as well.

While it's very nice of you to bring a homemade dish to a party, you're not doing anyone any favors by showing up with a casserole in a nasty-looking baking pan or without the proper serving utensils. If you're bringing a store-bought salad or some other pre-fab delicacy, stop at home on your way to the party and empty it into one of your own bowls, and bring along a serving spoon. It's simply too un-chic to just rip the lid off a plastic deli tub and plop it down on a buffet table, no matter how casual the party is!

A little like Miss Manners for the new Millennium, The Party Girl Cookbook is a delight if you're in the right headspace. The authors have their patter down and their themes well organized. Now who's making the pina colada? | November 1999

MONICA STARK is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and editor.