I ALWAYS THOUGHT of myself as a New Yorker," says Daisy Voigt, who is the same age as Tina Turner. "But then the last time I was up in New York, the light changed while I was crossing Seventh Avenue, and I suddenly realized that I couldn't handle all that nonsense anymore and that's when I admitted, finally, that Washington is my home."
Born in Boston, Voigt went to New York for a "beatnik weekend" when she was 22 and stayed until 1977, when she accepted a position in the Carter administration -- as director of public affairs for the EEOC -- and moved to Washington.
Knowing hardly a soul in the city, Voigt slowly began to learn about the social system in the nation's capital. She became increasingly concerned as she realized D.C. was no her cup of tea. "There were invitations with price tags" (fund parties in hearing rooms" and no local bars in any hoods. "In New York all we did was put the word out over the wire about a party and everybody came -- along with their friends. Here in D.C., social life was segregated by both class and race."
But eventually Voigt met a woman she liked (Washington artist Mildred Thompson) and moved into the house next door. Voigt took the day off from work to make the move and gave her first party that night. Since the apartment was painted in "landlord green and pink," Voigt had her son Erich and his friends do a quick whitewash ("you know, only halfway up the stairs"). She went shopping for furniture at the Salvation Army, visited a restaurant supply house for cloth napkins and wine glasses, picked up a batch of fish to fry from a market on Maine Avenue, stopped for several sacks of black beans, went home in time to meet the furniture delivery truck, asked Thompson to hang some of her paintings on the freshly whitewashed walls and got the music system organized.
"It was a bash, a real barn-burner," she recalls. "It was a real New York party. The entire cast from a play at the Kennedy Center showed, plus Bobby Seale and other quote-unquote personalities. The only problem was I didn't know that Washington parties begin on time, so I hadn't had my shower yet when people started arriving. All I did was ask the first guests to receive the others until I was ready. That taught me that putting guests to work helps integrate a party."
And Voigt hasn't stopped throwing parties since. Now co-owner of a building just up the street from her first home, she has created an attractive duplex apartment for herself and her 22-year-old son. (Her daughter, Madeline, 25, lives in New York.) She moved in late last November and, of course, made Thanksgiving dinner there for 17 people. "I always do Thanksgiving," she says.
Now Voigt finally feels plugged into the Washington social scene. Thrice married, she is now "her own wife," which means she does nice things for herself and others when she feels like it. Twice a year she throws a huge party -- often a fish fry -- for 100; but in between she has a number of "apres-laundry" gatherings (late Saturday afternoons when people are waiting for their clothes to dry at the local laundromat); all-female tea parties on Sundays from 6 to 7 in the evening, when she serves homemade gingerbread; and weekend dinners for six.
"During the winter I'll bake four or five loaves of bread and make a huge lentil soup. This lentil soup is your basic 'stone soup,' and can
feed as many as necessary.
Then I throw a huge salad together, buy some cantaloupe
sorbet, and call it a dinner
party. It works."
And eligible men for dinner?
"I'll tell you, in Washington
the men-women ratio is
wicked. I never thought I'd
pick up my phone to see if it
was out of order because it didn't ring all weekend. That's one
reason why I entertain. And
even that's sort of tricky with
all the shifting relationships;
you never know if you've done
the wrong thing when you invite a couple. But I do like to
have one couple, myself, another single woman, and two
single men. The Washington
custom of sending out notes
works fine in this case because
sometimes I'm afraid to call
some guy on the telephone.
That's when I send a note -- and the men usually show." DAISY'S LENTIL SOUP
Serves 10 to 12
1 pound lentils, rinsed
1 quart beer
3 cups chicken broth
1 pound lean ground round
1 cup cooked ham pieces
1 pound smoked sausage or kielbasa, thinly sliced
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
1 cup chopped red onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
4 teaspoons rosemary
4 teaspoons basil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
In large kettle or dutch oven combine lentils, beer and broth. Heat to boiling and simmer. In a skillet, brown ground meat to render out excess juices and fat. Add meat with ham, sausage, celery, onion, garlic, rosemary, basil and mushrooms to kettle and cook about 1 hour or until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
DAISY VOIGT entertains dinner guests with her lentil soup.