broadsideblog

Come For Dinner

In behavior, culture, domestic life, entertainment, family, food, journalism, life, Style on July 3, 2011 at 11:57 am
Thanksgiving dinner in Canada.

Image via Wikipedia

I love throwing dinner parties. If I were rich, and less busy, I’d have one almost every single week.

They combine all the things I love most:
creating and setting a pretty table; choosing recipes and shopping for good food and wine; cooking; making people happy — and spending quiet, uninterrupted time face to face with people I care about.

I use a collection of antique and colored plates and glasses, new and old linen napkins, and love to sit by candlelight as we all share stories.

As I write this, I’m sitting at our antique farm table, the one I bought in Montreal in 1985 and still use, layered with a blue and white vintage cotton tablecloth.

We sit on a bench my ex-husband made that stores all our hardware and tools, and top with custom-made cushions covered in lime green cotton with cobalt-blue piping. I turn the ugly glass balcony divider into a wall by throwing a pretty coverlet over it and lining up big, soft cushions covered in a variety of fabrics, from a 1930s floral print I found in a Paris flea market to a great blue and green check I found in Fredericksburg, Texas (where else?)

Instant outdoor restaurant!

My friend Tamara, whose fun cookbook is here, holds dinner parties in the backyard of her Queens, NY apartment. I attended the first one two summers ago and was instantly charmed — strangers pay $40 per person and sit at a motley array of tables, set with mismatched china and cutlery, and eat great food and get to know one another. It’s very un-New York to travel from one borough to another, let alone risk an evening with people you don’t know. But Tamara’s crowd is smart and fun and creative: I’ve met everyone from radio reporters to a dentist to attorneys.

I made a new friend there whose career as a singer of 1920s music is rocketing along; if you’re ever in New York, you’ve got to hear the Hot Sardines and Mme. Bougerol. The woman rocks a washboard! (Turned out her mom, also at that first dinner where we met, went to the same school and camp as I did. Small world.)

This is the whole point of dinner parties — unlikely combinations, the germination of new friendships with people you would never have met elsewhere. We held one, midwinter, about eight years ago that included our Maine-born minister and his wife; a war photographer, a British journalist and his girlfriend; an interior designer. Ages ranged from 30s to 60s. We ate chili and rice and salad — and a man and woman who met there that night have been happily married for years. Ka-ching!

I grew up in a family that loved to entertain, and eat well, so it all feels like a normal and lovely thing to do. We also don’t have kids, and so it’s easier for us than for those who do, especially little kids or lots of kids.

Here’s a gorgeous new magazine devoted to the art of small dinner parties.

And here’s a very odd French website selling Last Supper placemats with images of all the apostles’ hands.

Do you love to entertain? Tell me about one of your best parties!

  1. Instead of being busy my family and I have small private dinners on Saturday evenings. Sometimes we also have guests. It’s such a great feeling – to sit at the table with your family, to cook a dinner for them. We like exploring new dishes and new foodstuffs, and try to vary our menu.
    _______________________
    (sory if i make some mistakes, my english is not good :))

  2. We like entertaining too and love the social aspects that a good get-together can bring around.

    When I was a kid on Christmas Eve, many of the Italian families in our area would hold a “Feast of the Seven Fishes” — a huge 7-course meal where every course had some sort of seafood in it. There was lots of pasta and clams and mussels and whitefish, etc.

    One year for New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a Feast of the Seven Fishes but California style — we had seared ahi, lobsters grilled baja style, etc. It was a great hit and a wonderful way to ring in the new year.

  3. I love your story of the instant outdoor restaurant. Sounds like such fun.
    I used to love to entertain, not that I would not like to now, but circumstances and finances don’t allow me to do so. However, I do have a dream of some day having my dream home (single family house with a nice fenced in backyard) in the place (city) I know is where I truly feel at home…and having friends over to share food and joyful, fun conversations.

    One of my favorite meals and times to share is over Fondues. Friends where I currently live began a Christmas Eve tradition a few years ago. We first let the children 9 to 11 of them open their gifts, then the younger children are fed things they enjoy and the adults and older children enjoy our fondue dinner and then a fondue dessert.

  4. Fondue is a lot of fun — especially for groups. Neat idea!

  5. What a terrific blog you have! I read a few posts tonight and especially enjoyed this one on hosting dinner parties and reasons you love being a Canadian, the July 1st one! I confess, I am spoiled as I have a husband who is a phenominal cook. I am typically on clean up duty but when we host, he cooks. As for being Canadian, did you have Beaver Tails on there (pastry, yummy pastry)?? :)

  6. I’m quite shy and the idea of a fancy formal dinner party with strangers makes me nervous!

    Yours sound absolutely beautiful and charming.

  7. No, they are so much fun!

    Not to be all Irish, but strangers are merely friends you haven’t met yet.

    If you enjoy (which many people do not) the whole thang…choosing recipes, cooking, setting a table…it can seem stressful. It can be really simple stuff, and if presented nicely (candles, some nice napkins), really lovely. My greatest weakness is tableware, so I know I have lots of pretty serving pieces and can serve even a simple roast chicken and green salad it will come out nicely. (Some of it is simply a nice presentation…I have ironware platters from flea markets and other nice things that weren’t expensive. If you have all-white stuff, you can mix and match periods and styles.)

    Both my sweetie and I grew up with Moms who loved to entertain, so I think it’s partly what you grow up with. When people enjoy our parties (which they do), it’s also motivating! :-)

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