Alex Hitz's book The Art of the Host—is really a memoir. His success as host and chef certainly derive from his family tree. As he presents his beautiful traditional table settings and recipes he tells his readers backstories and mostly it's family and friend related. That's really where recipes, linens, sterling, and china should come from. From the heart—from family.
Alex Hitz with his team, which includes dear friends and his "food family"
Center front, Mary Boyle Hataway, who he dedicates the book to—along with his Aunt Laura.
Recipes are sprinkled with names like My Mother's French Silk Pie (below), and the book, along with delicious photographs of table and food, adds another ingredient—photographs of the people who inspired them. For "The-Absolutely-Perfect-Every-Time-Thanksgiving" chapter Hitz fills his reader's plate with recipes like Aunt Betty's Orange Cranberry Sauce, Dorothy's Cornbread Dressing, Connie's-and-Audrey's-and-Alex's Apple Confit, as well as the Pie. Aunt Betty, pictured as an Atlanta deb,Dorothy, the Hitz family cook, and Connie Wald (Alex's dear friend) pictured with Audrey Hepburn (Connie's dearest friend).
Hitz with his parents—and his mother's French Silk Pie
Connie Wald and Audrey Hepburn,
Hitz captions this photo of friends saying "Connie always said she stole this recipe from Audrey—I added the onions, but the foundation is theirs."
Onions? What would Audrey say?
Since Hitz is referred to as "the very best host in the world," I will have to try this one.
It's all very Southern—Hitz is an Atlanta native and his recipes remind me of my own menu for Thanksgiving: Gramma Bess's Chicken Salad Casserole, Nancy Pass's Frozen Cranberry Tarts, and Mrs. Clyde Bowen's Japanese Pie. Alex's mother loved all things French, I've no idea if Mrs. Clyde Bowen loved and traveled to Japan but she made a mean pie, easy too. My other dishes have no name names that hardly deserve a mention. It will be a small gathering, my mother, brother, and I gathered around mother's bed with all the trappings of a formal table but on trays.
Hitz gives readers his absolute loves, his ALWAYS, and his NEVER.
Included here are some of my absolute FAVORITES: ABSOLUTELY LOVE (from page 17)
"on BUTTER: This is self-explanatory and, certainly, no secret to fine cooks. Don't ever be afraid of it. (Never) And always use SALTED BUTTER. (I don't) It's the secret to delicious food in France, where I learned it, and I do not care what the sneering purists say." (I don't care either and thank you Alex for freeing me from this myth! From here on out— always SALTED BUTTER.) ALWAYS (page 18):
"Use salted butter and table salt for my recipes—they are written for it. I've already said this but I want to make sure you didn't miss it." NEVER (page 19) His best?
(never) "Have a cocktail hour that is any longer than forty-five minutes."
These Hitz lists are worth the price of The Art Of The Host, but the recipes are too.
Rich men's houses are seldom beautiful, rarely comfortable, and never original. It is a constant source of surprise to people of moderate means to observe how little a big fortune contributes to Beauty. ~MA