Face Time: Cornelia Guest

1980s ‘it’ girl, vegan cookbook author

June 29, 2012

As the daughter of fashion icon C.Z. Guest and polo champion Winston Frederick Churchill Guest, onetime 1980s socialite Cornelia Guest knows a thing or two about elegance and style. She shares her expertise and relaxed, no-fuss approach to food in “Cornelia Guest’s Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking and Easy Entertaining ($33, Weinstein Books). Organized by seasons, the book offers tips for throwing stress-free soirees and vegan recipes that are both healthy and approachable.

Why do you like simplicity so much?
One of my pet peeves in life is pretension, especially with food. I love food in its natural state; I have a very simple palate. I love delicious, yummy food that’s not overdone. It’s like if you go out and you’re wearing everything but the kitchen sink: If you tone it down and make it simple, it’s so much prettier.

Does keeping things simple help make entertaining more fun?
Yes. Sometimes when things get elaborate, people get uncomfortable. If people are outside, you don’t want to be in the kitchen making some elaborate thing. Do as many foolproof things as possible and get as much as you can get done ahead of time. Then you can have a glass of wine with your friends and enjoy them.

Are there key elements that every party should have?
Laughter. Good food. Good drinks, in whatever shape or form you’re going to have them in. And whatever you do as a host or hostess, you need to be happy about it. Even if your dish doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, you have to smile.

You’re vegan, and so are the book’s recipes in the book. What has it done for you?
It clears up the taste buds a lot. I feel better; I have more energy.

What are some of your favorite foods to cook with?
I love vegetables. A vegetable carpaccio is my favorite thing in the world, like carrots, fennel and cucumbers thinly sliced with a little bit of lemon. I do have a wee bit of a sweet tooth, too, but I love vegetables.

What’s an ingredient that a lot of people might not have tried but should?
The grain pastas, like a quinoa pasta, are incredibly good with just a little olive oil and salt and pepper. They don’t need much and they’re delicious. Also Vegenaise and Earth Balance “butter” — those are amazing.

How can carnivores use your book?
Everything in the book can stand by itself or be an addition to any food that you want to have. So if you want to sit down and have a steak, just have one of the kale or beet salads. I hope the book brings this food into their consciousness. Maybe people will get inspired to have a meatless Monday!

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