broadsideblog

I Love Dinner Parties!

In behavior, entertainment, family, food, life on December 4, 2011 at 1:25 am
Dinner party at a Mandarin's house.

Image via Wikipedia

When Jose and I started dating, it was a very short time before I put him to the acid test — helping me throw a dinner party.

I love giving dinner parties!

They satisfy many urges: to make people happy, to feed them well, to set a pretty table, (candles, flowers, home-made place cards, linen or cotton napkins, colorful plates, shiny silver), and to create new connections between the people I love.

We had two couples over recently who had never met, but I knew would get along and enjoy one another, (another key to a great dinner party. No random guests!) The two women, even with a 15-year age difference, had both worked in book publishing in Manhattan. Their husbands are quieter, but both have a dry sense of humor. They all love to eat well and everyone loves to laugh.

The menu:

tomato soup (with a touch of gin!)

salmon with tangerine/butter/soy sauce glaze

asparagus

mango rice

chocolate ice cream with my invention, (what I call drunk fruit), served hot on top. (Throw blackberries, raspberries, apple, pear, butter, cloves, cinnamon, maple syrup, lemon or lime juice, scotch and/or Marsala and/or sherry into a heavy pan and boil. Yum!)

The best part was remembering that one of the women had cut a CD a few years ago, a gift from her family. So we all listened to it, and the other woman happily sang along.

We love remembering dinner parties we held a decade ago, like the one that included our minister and his wife (in their 60s), a young photographer and journalist, a Times shooter just back from Afghanistan and my web designer. One couple locked eyes across our table — and married a few years later.

The mix matters!

No boors/bores. No mean jokes. No one smokes. No one drinks to excess. We’re passionate about the news and current affairs. Aggression, whether passive or active, is deeply unwelcome; here’s a sadly accurate blog post about watching three sorts of moribund marriages across the table.

Our friends have generally traveled the world, are educated, read widely and avidly, share enough cultural references we’ve got something in common but enough (civil!) difference of opinion to enjoy talking to one another.

We’ve got it down to a science, helped by the fact I work at home and can easily make time for fussy niceties like ironing a tablecloth and napkins or re-filling the votives. I love settling in with my recipes and cookbooks to plan a meal that’s balanced, interesting and good-looking. Our kitchen is very small, so we do it restaurant-style, with prep work in advance, and plating on the kitchen counter.

I grew up in a family that frequently had friends over for dinner, and Jose’s Mom, as a small-town minister’s wife did often for family and church visitors.

It’s one of the happiest traditions he and I now continue. (I do know that having kids, especially small ones, makes this sort of thing more difficult. We don’t have kids.)

Do you enjoy entertaining?

  1. I do enjoy entertaining, but I don’t do it enough. It’s hard to find people who are available. We all have kids who need carting around to various activities, and weekends are so busy.

    Also, my husband and I relocated to our town 2.5 years ago. In my mid-forties, I find making friends hard. And I’m also inhibited about inviting people over, because I’m so aware of all the demands on them and also that they’ve already established their social circles.

    Ah, poor me!

  2. I bet if you organized a potluck dinner — or made a few salads and ordered in pizza — people would be happy to come over. Hire a babysitter and have everyone chip in for their cost so they can bring their kids with them but focus on one another…?

    I live in the ‘burbs and see what frenzied lives most parents seem to live. Do they enjoy it? I also see how it completely seals families off from one another and from those of us who don’t have kids. I find it sad.

  3. Nice post! I want to pick up on your comment that you had two couples over for dinner. My wife Ellen and I concluded a few years ago that conversations go better with a total group of six, rather than larger or smaller groups. Groups of eight, for example, often break into two separate conversations around the table, diminishing the experience overall.

    Has that been your experience?

  4. Interesting point…Our table comfortably seats six (although it can expand to hold up to 10). Even with eight people, I think it would be the same. It’s rare for us to have more than 4…gets expensive!

  5. Good idea! Basically, I need to be braver.

  6. I feel very happy reading this post on your blog. Your idea is Awesome!

  7. The icecream with drunk fruit sounds delicious.

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