Mar 2 • 3M

No, It is Not Over!

The demise of the dinner party? I don't think so.

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Victoria de la Maza
A podcast about ins and outs of high-society, humorous stories, and personal anecdotes. And yes, opinions, lots of opinions.
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The other day, -I mean to say about a month ago- I watched David Patrick Columbia’s documentary about his New York Social Diary. called “Last Night In New York.” And I realized everyone was reminiscing about the same thing: the demise of glamorous, elegant, and private dinner parties at home that marked an era of belonging. Society, as it was, is no longer, and that sense of sophistication and good taste doesn’t apply anymore.

The new people with wherewithal are not interested in glamour or elegance. Their interest is in the $5,000 sneaker, in tee-shirts and jeans, in grey and beige houses. I imagine a fancy dinner at Mark Zuckerberg’s house to be pizza in the kitchen on paper plates. Standing up.

My friends tell me that no one entertains at home in Palm Beach, the land of the rich and famous. There are charity balls every night, and people see each other at clubs or restaurants, but the elegant dinner parties for 24 are a thing of the past; no one wants to make an effort.

During that time, it was the sign of social standing to be in that grandiose group, to belong, to be invited, and to invite back successfully, so the competition was brutal. It was all about how to one-up each other in the dining room.

Granted, the grand dames of the eighties and nineties are now older (or gone), but no one I know is taking their place in society. Parties at restaurants end up being corporate affairs, presentations, and sales pitches for the many products millennials are constantly selling each other.

What I see is that the dinner party will never be “over.” It has changed, developed, and evolved to fit the needs of today. I -of a certain age- still entertain, maybe not as glamorously or grandly as in the 80s and 90s but is because I don’t need to impress anyone anymore. And that is a good thing.

Now I give smaller dinner parties for the simple pleasure of being with my friends. My table sits eight comfortably, ten if we squeeze in. And my dinners are meant to be blips in the week, a few hours of comfortable camaraderie, a place to meet, laugh, and share stories.

Emeril brings it up a notch, I take it down a notch. I don’t need to set the table with every bit of silver I own, nor do I have to go through the extravagance of over-the-top recipes. Making my guests comfortable is just that: a convivial group, comfortable settings, a menu with food we all recognize, well presented, deliciously simple.

The art of the dinner party will never die. Inviting friends to your house is the only and best way to really get to know each other. Homes are the doors to our hearts; including the people we care about is a basic instinct.

I plan meals that are easy for me to make. Most of it done and prepared ahead of time, and then heated up just before serving. I admire friends who can cook while guests have a preprandial glass of wine. I am too nervous about doing that. I have been known to burn toast… in the toaster.

And that way of entertaining depends on how your house is set up. My kitchen is not in the living room, so it doesn’t work for me to have an audience while cooking.

Here is another essential bit of knowledge about entertaining: know your strengths and weaknesses. If you are not comfortable cooking, order in or plan a menu tapas style where nothing is cooked but rather assembled. Or thrown together; it is called to throw a party, is it not? Set a pretty table, put flowers around, and serve good wine.

So no, the dinner party is not over…. it has changed from the style of the eighties and nineties, as many other things have too. I don’t think anyone would like to bring back medieval table manners or roman feasts. Life moves on.

And so, with this, I cheer on the dinner party!


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