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Cocktail Culture – the demise of the dinner party

The New York Times published this article today regarding the demise of the dinner party and in the same breath the demise of good manners. I would hope that the dinner party isn’t going to way of the hand written note and men holding the door for women. But as we know I’m old fashioned.

I think a lot of people get caught up in the idea that a dinner party has to be a five course extravaganza that includes great expense and clean-up. In an Internet and all about me world this is a common misconception that feeds into many women and mom’s thinking they have to be “perfect”. Perfect is not being June Cleaver. Perfect is being a good host, sharing a meal with your friends or family and feeling good about yourself when it is over. My belief is you can still entertain in a traditional way even in times like these. People will appreciate the salad and entree you provided. And even more importantly, they will appreciate you, your family and your kids.

The famous New York hostess Nan Kempner used to have famous Sunday Suppers that included spaghetti with red sauce she cooked herself. The entree of spaghetti was her signature. Uber chic, right?

Always so chic

So find a signature dish that is yours. It doesn’t have to be something you thought up. It can be your favorite dish or the favorite of your spouse. Get good at it, tweak it, make it your own. And then cook the hell out of it, add a salad and wine and you are good to go.

Personally, I always enjoyed the Basil Chicken Hash from Barefoot Contessa. I’ve blogged the recipe in the past but it translates to most people’s tastes. I served a salmon dip and salad with it. That’s it. No big deal. The entree makes a lot of food, tastes great and every one is happy. Plus, how chic is it that the recipe is a take on the chicken hash served at Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball?

My friends complain that they never get to go anywhere because of their kids. I always repeat the stories of my parents having dinner parties at home after we went to bed. These parties occurred specifically so they could have a social life without us. Smart thinking. Good time management. No baby-sitter needed.

You can still entertain at home and it not be a burden. You can use the china and the crystal on a weeknight if you want too. And even if you are still wearing jeans and a sweater when your guests arrive, nothing is chicer than having a wonderful time in your own home after NOT sweating in the kitchen.

5 Responses to “Cocktail Culture – the demise of the dinner party”

  • I totally agree with you here! I’m actually trying to bring dinner parties back to our life. In London, apartments are tiny and space is limited. Because of that, I’ve had to get creative with how I would host people, but it’s better than not hosting at all. Also, I recently attended a large dinner party for Thanksgiving – it was pot luck… There’s really no excuse not to host people at your home if you enjoy it… I’ve even served my guests small finger foods and had them sitting all over the place, but it’s always fun and they’re always happy when they leave. x

  • if I could do one thing in time it would be to attend that B&W Capote ball. my heart flutters just thinking about it.

    even though I’m in a small apt currently, JM and I have hosted a handful of dinner parties. last year for his birthday, he made a roast leg of lamb and I made a homemade cheesecake – then we filled in with a simple salad and side dish. it’s really such a joy to come together with friends, break bread together, and it’s a different feeling entirely than going out to dinner.

    when we buy a home we know we want a LARGE dining area and a very “social” kitchen – an island with stools and room for the both of us to whip up dishes for our friends and family.

  • I love Ina Garten’s take on the dinner party. I’m lucky that Mr. often wants to grill when we have guests, so I don’t have to do much of the cooking. Chicken Parm is the go-to meal if I’m going to cook.

  • We have a tiny place. So if we have a dinner party, it’ll just be a handful of people. We always serve pretty homey dishes like “Sunday Gravy”, braised short ribs with salad and veggies.

    What we’ve started doing is offering to cook at our friends houses. Our Friendsgiving was the most recent event.

  • I am so with you here – I love to have people over. One night, since M got injured, my parents brought us dinner from Maggianos. That included 3 diff pastas to share, a salad, a couple loaves of bread, and I provided beverages and made a table with some of our new wedding china and silver. It was perfect. I don’t know why people fuss over this stuff!

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