Yesterday I had around 150 visitors come through our home to hear the history of the architecture and the people who have lived here in the past 160 years. An important aspect of the tour is to see the way we live with history. Immediately following the tour, I hosted Jazz and Juleps for the visitors who wanted to have a more personal experience and feel of our home.
So, how do you cook in a hoop skirt? The simple answer is, "You don't."
When you have 150 guests coming to see your home, there is endless dusting, fluffing, gardening, rearranging, and other preparations. Keep in mind that my home is just one aspect of my life: I write for the Atlantic Food Channel every week, I do eight weddings a year, I am working on a new book, and I have children, a husband, Thursday-night poker, bridge when I can fit it in, my daily coffee group, and Tuesday Trivia at Bowie's Tavern with my husband and my son Martin (we need him for a lot of the answers). And in Natchez at least 30 percent of your time is called on for volunteer efforts. I also have five sisters and three brothers that I try to stay connected to and many other friends I like to spend time with.
Somehow, by the end of the day, it all gets done. This is something you all understand—we all spend our days juggling all that we have to do. People often ask me how I do it all. There is an easy answer: "Not always very well, but I try." With all of this going on, it was my idea to offer Jazz and Juleps here following the four-hour tour so I could trade my hoops in for an apron. Knowing it was going to be five days and knowing what my schedule was going to be like, I had to come up with a couple of easy but impressive foods that I could put in the freezer.
When touring Twin Oaks our visitors are greeted by me on the front gallery—and don't laugh, in a dress with hoops I am so much more comfortable than in an apron. I share my personal and family history and tell them what to expect. They then move into the study, where I have someone in character and speaking in first person as Cornelia Connelly, who was the first resident of this home and had a fascinating life filled with accomplishments, sorrow, and scandal. (Cornelia Connelly, January 15, 1809— April 18, 1879, born Cornelia Peacock, was the American-born founder of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, a Roman Catholic religious order. I recommend googling her wild story.) Of course, the dining room is one of my favorite rooms, and it is mostly my creation—we actually turned the enclosed back gallery into a large dining room that seats 14 (it is never big enough). As the visitors make their way through the house they end up in the property's original cottage, which dates to 1809. It is now our den and kitchen, and that is where we offer guests one of my butter biscuits, fresh from the oven with apricot butter and chilled almond iced tea, before they exit to the back garden.