"Glamour does have a place in the 1990s, but not pretentiousness, which isn't glamorous anyway," said John Loring, design director of Tiffany & Co. in New York City. Pretentiousness "ruins everything since it makes people uncomfortable and so they don't act naturally. Those who only had a flirtation with pretentiousness will go on to a more realistic style."
Certainly Loring has seen it all in his travels throughout the world promoting his new "The Tiffany Gourmet Cookbook" (Doubleday, $50) done with the assistance of his friend Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Full of recipes and colorful photographs of table settings in rooms throughout the world, the book illustrates Loring's philosophy that good entertaining only occurs when the host or hostess is doing his or her best.
"If you do your best, not someone else's best, things will usually work out. It doesn't have to be in perfect 'taste.' There is no vitality unless you try something different; there has to be a little spice to make entertaining interesting," Loring continued.
If energy has been spent on creating a unique spirit for an event, it will usually be a success.
The meals vary in his book. From the whimsical picture of a child's tea party in the garden to the fantasy shot of the La Baronne Guy de Rothchild's dinner in a palace on the Ile St.-Louis, each photograph has the feeling of a special occasion.
Loring's interest in food and entertaining goes back to his childhood, which was filled with such varied experiences as Southwestern barbecues learned in Arizona and rib roasts and Yorkshire puddings favored by his Yorkshire-born father. His great-grandfather owned one of the largest tent circuses in the world, so this combination of good taste and a certain razzmatazz comes naturally to him.
As a young man in Paris, Loring learned to cook by informally entertaining people in his small flat. "I didn't want to do more than I was able, but I didn't want to do less. I knew a lot about good simple food: American, Mexican, Southern.
"Since it was the 1960s, the electronic mono-culture of today didn't exist, so this food was unusual to the French. The secret was it was good food, and the French always like good food that's not ostentatious."
This cookbook is one that Loring has thought about doing with the former First Lady for more than 13 years. "Although she doesn't do much cooking herself, while I was in France in the 1960s she was planning important dinners at the White House. She knows what proper entertaining is all about."
With all his experience in entertaining and being entertained, you'd think that Loring would be completely confident, but he admits that he still gets a moment of stage fright and wonders what he is going to do. "People think that I've done this sort of thing so often that I can wave my hand and things are perfection. Not, as you say in California. Every time is the first time."
Loring sees this book, and the other five he has written, as pointers to what is possible rather than as exact blueprints.
"There are so many possible ways to do things that it should be impossible to repeat yourself ever. And if you don't quite succeed at what you tried, don't try to do it over and make it better. Instead go on to something entirely new.
"You should entertain based on what's fresh in the market, what the weather's like and what your intuition tells you would be fun," he said.