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Kensington Books
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Cancer the Crab Cakes

My best friend's Manhattan apartment looks out over Central Park and is perfectly decorated with exquisite mid-century furnishings and art. Even his Siamese cats match the motif. My favorite part of his home, however, is the state-of-the-art stainless steel kitchen. Maddeningly, this chef's paradise is never used except when I blow into town and decide to cook! Oh, sure...his catered cocktail parties occur seasonally, but day-to-day homecooked dinners are more rare than Susan Lucci Emmy wins!

Oddly enough, many of my friends right here in Los Angeles are also strangers to their own kitchens and dining rooms. More than busy schedules and habitual restaurant-hopping, I blame the Food Network for consumer inundation and intimidation! How many times have you watched those wizards of "Aahs" on their two-dimensional kitchen sets and shrugged, forlorn, "I could never do that!?"

Well, of course you can't. You don't have a staff of researchers, writers, assistants, technicians, designers, editors and make-up artists to turn you into an Emeril, Bobby or Sarah. What you do have, dear hearts, is ME.

At least once a month, I dish up a very merry dinner party chez moi and all it requires are the components you will find in the pages that follow. And unlike those "Queer Eye" guys ("queer" literally means "suspicious" or "nauseated"-bad qualities for a dinner party) who just want to take your individuality and make it over, I think at-home entertainment should be gay all the way!

Unbeatable Black Bean Salad

Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary defines GAY: adj.-happily excited, merry; keenly alive and exuberant; having or inducing high spirits - bright, lively; brilliant; given to social pleasures. Now THAT's the way to party!

Oh, yes, it also means "homosexual," but FYI, I am not the wig-wearing, Judy Garland-crooning, rainbow-waving fellow you invariably see featured in your local news coverage of the Pride Parades. I have no body piercings, no pink triangle on my Benz bumper nor do I snap my fingers and refer to everyone as "girl." Although it's only a 15 minute drive to West Hollywood, I much prefer having an assortment of friends under my own roof than being packed into a crowded bar under someone else's.

I do admit, however, to loving to cook and garden, singing a song around the piano and shopping. I adore my mother, listen to both classical and dance music and, yes, I take excellent care of my skin.

Most of all, I enjoy opening my home to share not only delicious food and beverages, but conversation, camaraderie and laughter. I am a professional pundit, but I save my best gossip for those gathered at my dinner table. One can't rely merely on the repast for a successful soiree, it's only one tessera in the larger mosaic. And anyone who's studied biology (or gotten past First Base) knows that the way to a man's heart isn't really through his stomach!

My mother, Joyce Ann, the right balance of "lady" and "broad," introduced me to the loves of both entertaining and food at an early age. I was a porky kid, but she had insight to detect a Party Planner lurking under all that excess weight and so, took me to audition for a Main Line production of "The House at the Pooh Corner." The cast would be all adults except for three roles. Too fat to be Christopher Robin, I was thrilled to be offered my choice from the other two available children's parts; I wanted to be my favorite character, "Roo," in the worst way. Mother gently guided me to accept the supporting lead, instead ("Just look, honey, it has so many more lines!"), and a porcine thespian was born. I still have a special bias toward "Piglet." Tiddly-pom!

Mom Mom's Chocolate Cake, Fat-tastic Fudge, Mrs. D's Ginger Cremes

Mother used to have guests "sign" the kitchen table by writing their names on a piece of paper and pressing down hard into the soft wood so their autographs would be permanently engraved for posterity. I grew up believing that if the kitchen is the heart of one's home, the table is its soul!

My own giant table nearly fills the entire dining room and has been visited by movie stars and masseurs, housewives and haberdashers, circuit queens and circus clowns (strikingly similar at times), aerobics instructors and accountants. Some guests have been as young as four and others as young as 80. But whomever the guest, I believe they have left happy and well-fed--feeling like my little slice of glitzy-L.A. is really HOME. Maybe that's why, year after year, friends automatically gravitate to it for holidays and special occasions.

You're going to learn how to accomplish this on your own, whether you hang your hat in a city skyscraper or a country cottage. Here come a plethora of my tips, ideas and favorite recipes for throwing gay dinner parties. You will also savor more than a few mouthfuls of choice Insider Hollywood Buzz. It is the first of endless volumes on the subject because, after all, there are no limits to how creative one can be in sharing the rewards of HOSPITALITY.

Have fun! I wish you a lifetime of dinner parties filled with gaiety!

Nelson Aspen
Hollywood, California


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