Author pens book on outdoor entertaining

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2010

NATCHEZ — Denise Gee didn’t realize as a child she was in a research lab.

But when Gee began compiling ideas for her latest book, she was transported back to her hometown Natchez roots where porch sitting was an art form.

“I grew up in the Bailey House, and every time I’m in Natchez I think about how much I enjoyed being on that porch,” she said. “I think we ought to embrace the porch again, connect with the people we care about and let our cares blow away in the breeze.”

Gee’s latest book “Porch Parties: Cocktail Recipes and Easy Ideas for Outdoor Entertaining” offers up dozens of recipes for cocktails and their alcohol-free counterpart that Gee refers to as frocktails.

“I think the term mocktails is a bit demeaning to a recipe that just doesn’t have alcohol,” she said. “(The frocktails) are just as dressed up and just as good, really.”

The book is a follow-up to Gee’s first book venture “Southern Cocktails: Dixie Drinks, Party Potions and Classic Libations.” Both books were photographed by Gee’s husband and Natchez native Robert Peacock.

“I’ve been a food editor at Southern Living and most recently was the senior home design editor at Better Homes and Garden,” she said. “This book combines my love of food and entertaining with outdoor living.

“Spring and autumn are the most wonderful times of of year to sit outdoors in the South, but even in the evening in the summertime the porch can be a really nice getaway.”

When writing recipes for the book, Gee said she wanted to appeal to as many types of people as possible and thus included recipes for classic cocktails like mint julep, piña colada and “the best margarita ever.”

Gee pays homage to her hometown with her family’s recipe for Natchez Milk Punch.

While many of the recipes have classic names and flavors, Gee wanted to dress them up. Such was the case for her recipe for Ruby Sangria, she said.

“I have loved sangria since I could start drinking,” she said. “The only think I didn’t like about it was it had mushy gray fruit in it. It was a very pretty drink, and I thought I could make it prettier and I added a kabob stirrer of fruit that is pretty and can be nibbled on while you drink.”

The book will be released nationally on April 28, but Natchez will get a sneak peak this weekend. Gee is coming home for a porch party in her honor from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday upstairs from Pearl Street Pasta.

There will be hors d’oeuvre and drink samplings from the book.

“Even though I live in Dallas, every time I say home, I think of Natchez so having this kick off in Natchez means a lot to me,” Gee said.