The notion that one person, usually a woman, is responsible from start to finish for a perfect dinner party performance plagues my students with worry. Many cook really well but are too scared to have anyone over to eat! They fret: How can I make sure the dinner party will be flawless? How can I make it look effortless? How can I have everything done before guests arrive? I don’t think I have the right space for entertaining.
The idea of throwing dinner parties to impress people is so 1950’s. It is an archaic mold set by people with helmet hairdos. We do not need to follow it anymore. This is OUR generation. We make the rules. It’s time for a new dinner party model.
The dinner party is simply an opportunity to share intimacy with new and old friends through homemade, love-infused food. It gives us a chance to allow others to experience the vibe of our homes and allows them to add warmth to where we live. We get to play music, perhaps get up and dance, and hopefully just let loose. It’s a necessary safe space to exchange our important ideas and connect deeply with the fellow human beings we are sharing the planet with. Most fundamentally, the intention of the dinner party is to have fun.
That said, how do we throw a dinner party when the stepford wife model is still hanging over our heads? Let me address the above concerns.
1. You can’t make it flawless. And don’t try to. The fun doesn’t start until something goes wrong. Make it as elegant as you like, but don’t make it fancy. Nobody likes a stuffy party.
2. It doesn’t need to be or look effortless. The fun is in the effort. Ask your friends to help you during the party. They want to! Slicing bread, setting the table, lighting candles, serving prosecco to the newly arrived, passing appetizers or desserts. Get everyone involved. That way they feel they own the party as much as you do and the feel of the soiree will not be “you and them” but all of you creating a magical evening together. There isn’t a dinner party of mine when everyone doesn’t applaud when we finally get the food to the table. The collaboration makes us proud and joyous that it is time to eat.
3. You’ll never have everything done ahead of time. That said, there are certain meals that lend themselves better so you can spend more time just relaxing with guests. You can always choose to hire someone to help out during the party, but I personally prefer to have a staff-free evening so the gathering stays intimate. (However, I do love to have someone come to clean in the morning!)
4. You don’t need a grand palace to entertain. Most Europeans don’t live in the villas you see in the movies. It doesn’t stop them from eating together with friends. Light candles, play music, cook your heart out and let the constriction or awkwardness of the space add to the intimacy and sexiness of the night.
Stop treating every dinner party like you’re trying to impress your mother-in law. Mrs. Goldfarb doesn’t want to be impressed any more. She wants to have fun!
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