Death of the Dinner Party

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Death of the Dinner Party

When was the last time you either gave or were invited to a dinner party? Larry and I have plenty of generous friends, but they don’t seem as interested as we are to entertain at home. There’s always the possibility we ย have been deleted from their guest list, but I kind of doubt it.

It was about a dozen years ago that I began noticing that folks didn’t have friends over for a meal, not as much as they had in the past. Friends sometime suggested that we meet at a restaurant, for “convenience”. That usually feels kind of impersonal to me, as I miss the intimacy of gathering for a meal around someone’s “real” table. Nowadays, with our low salt diet and Larry’s impaired hearing, not too many restaurants appeal to us.

It seems ironic that food and cooking are more popular than ever, whether on TV or other forms of media. Everybody knows who Ina is, and many of us eat up “Top Chef”, not to mention running out for the trendiest new cookbooks. Yet, more and more, it seems people are reluctant to cook for friends. I’ve even been told that a friend or two are intimidated by the fact that I have, along with about a million other home cooks, a food blog!

I realize that prices are soaring in grocery stores – but the same goes for most restaurants. Cocktails and wine and a fun part of an evening at home with friends, and a fraction of the cost at a nice bar or restaurant. Thee’s no need to break the bank and serve tenderloin, truffles and French wine. When I was first married and poor, back in the dark ages pre-Larry, we gave lots of parties that centered around a big pot of soup or stew. I don’t remember anyone leaving early from those get-togethers at our little Ocean Beach apartment.

OK, it takes some work to plan, shop for and plan a menu. Your house needs to be reasonable clean and you need a clear plan about prepping, cooking and service. My friend Jan taught me years ago to write down every step of my prep – what time to do each step – ending with what time dinner is to be served. My favorite number for a dinner party is six, eight at the most, and I need to be organized.

Work, yes, but there is something so satisfying to me to feed my friends around the table dating back to my childhood. ย I love the ritual of getting out the Waterford my folks gave me forty years ago, my mother’s silver and dishes, my grandmother’s dishes and setting a pretty table. And then there’s the clean house the next morning, after Larry has done all the dishes and left a sparkling kitchen from the previous night.

Has the dinner party at home become a dying art or not?


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46 Responses to Death of the Dinner Party

  1. Holly - FMITK November 7, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    I LOVE everything about dinner parties! The menu planning, the design of the menu, watching people eat my food lol But like you said, with prices soaring, it’s hard to budget a 3 or 4 course meal. I’ve been doing more “supper club” type dinner parties, where it’s $20-40/pp and includes a few courses and a cocktail or two. Definitely helps offset the costs of groceries!

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

      An interesting approach, the “supper club” idea – and I enjoy a dinner party as well.

  2. Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious November 7, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    I think you are correct. I haven’t been to a dinner party in YEARS, and I used to give them myself but don’t do it anymore. Maybe I should revive it!

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

      Your comment makes me feel better, Dorothy – if we aren’t giving dinner parties, who is?

  3. SallyBR November 7, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    Tricky to say, for me at least. We still host dinner parties, in fact we had one last week, and it was great, pretty low key, but everyone enjoyed it, I think

    we were invited the previous week to a full vegetarian dinner party at a colleague’s home, they are originally from India, and it was a blast

    so, at least for us dinner parties are still happening maybe not as often as 10 years ago, but often enough. I much rather host a dinner party then go to a restaurant where more often than not I leave feeling too full and don’t sleep well ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      I totally agree with your comment, especially preferring home to a restaurant – thanks –

  4. Lynda November 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    Not in our house! It’s our favorite way to socialize.

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

      And you both are two of the finest hosts I know –

  5. Ani November 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    I prefer small dinner parties over restaurants or large parties any day! When I had my own place, I used to host them once a month or once every other month. I miss hosting and always loved coming up with ways to host while also stretching my dollar. Some day soon I hope to get back to it!

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

      I’m sure you are a generous host – and I know the food is terrific!

  6. Suzanne November 7, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    I would love to be at one of your dinner parties Liz. I know you would be a fantastic hostess and the food would be out of this world. Dinner parties are so wonderful, you actually talk to each other, enjoy good food together with great company, I love them so and you have reminded me that I need to have another one really soon.

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

      Thanks, Suzanne – next time we are in NYC, let’s make that happen – at your house ๐Ÿ˜‰ – you have an open invitation to visit us here in San Diego any time.

  7. Carol Sacks November 7, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    I love dinner parties. Mine are a bit different because we like to include kids, but I’m a big proponent of cooking at home whether it’s casual or a little nicer. It’s the best way I know to get acquainted with new friends and re-connect with old friends.

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

      Children make any dinner party a family affair. We have no young children in our circles right now, although my godchild has a pretty wonderful three-month-old. Planning for the future –

  8. Lynn @ Oh-So Yummy November 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    I realize that we have more potlucks than actual dinner parties. If I did host a dinner party, it’d be for close friends and family. Would you consider holiday gatherings to be dinner parties though? Sometimes the hosts do take care of everything there! I so want to have a fancy dinner party though…

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

      For me, a dinner party is whenever friends or family come for supper. How elegant or fancy you want to make it, that’s up to you. We have been ding a lot of brunch get-togethers recently, and that has been fun too. I hate to admit it, but I’m too controlling to do a potluck…

  9. susan @ the wimpy vegetarian November 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    We love to have friends over for dinner. We have people over a couple times a month and generally have a dinner party to go to a couple times a month – we have one tomorrow night. I far prefer it to a restaurant – we can relax the night away without worrying about holding up a table for the next reservation, and have a real conversation. Dinner for 6 is the perfect number for us in our home. All that said, I absolutely do see people ratcheting back on home entertainment. Partly because of all the diets to accommodate, partly because after so many years cooking, a lot of my friends are just tired of it all.

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

      Susan, you have validated all my points – thanks and see you next weekend X0

  10. Karen @ Karen's Kitchen Stories November 7, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    I love your sentiments. I think that it’s also the dying art of good manners and reciprocating.

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

      Karen, don’t get me started about good manners and reciprocating – thanks so much for this thoughtful comment.

  11. Chloe November 7, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    We’ve noticed this too. We used to have and go to lovely dinner parties, but I guess they are a thing of the past. I loathe meeting at restaurants if it’s more than just another couple. Threes no mingling that makes a dinner party so fun.

    • Liz November 7, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

      Well, I refuse to give up and still have my ten year journal of who I served what. The ritual comforts me.

  12. Mel @ The cook's notebook November 7, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    I love entertaining – as I’m reading this I’m prepping for a dinner party tonight. My dinner parties are far less formal than those my parents hosted in the 1970s and 80s – the first course tends to be nibbles while we chat (tonight it’s salmon rillettes on baguette, some cheese and olives), main is usually a meat dish and 2-3 salads/veggie dishes (tonight it’s BBQ lamb roast, a heap of veg cooked on the BBQ with a basil creme fraiche sauce and a spinach, fennel and haloumi salad), and I always make a dessert (tonight it’s a meringue roulade with blueberries and raspberries). There will be 7 of us (6 adults and Mr14). 6-8 is my preference too.

    I also love entertaining during the week – it’s far more fun than plopping in front of the TV every night. It’s a rare week that we don’t have at least one friend at the dinner table for a casual meal, especially in summer. People don’t expect as much (usually just one course) and have usually left by 10.30pm. Usually I just make a bit extra of what we would normally have mid-week. Perfect. Except for the occasional Tuesday night dinner that has ended at 2am. Whoops!

    I do find that many people we host don’t reciprocate with dinner parties, and I’m usually OK with that, especially those of my friends who are terrible cooks! They usually reciprocate in other ways, and if they don’t they don’t. Life goes on.

    Anyway, must go – have meringue to make, lamb rub to mix and the Royal Doulton dinner set to dig out!

    • Liz November 8, 2014 at 7:54 am #

      Mid-week dinner parties – I’m impressed!

  13. mare November 7, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

    I love, love having dinner parties. In fact I am having one next Thursday night. I think that because of the small town/valley and the fact that we live in a tourist destination it has led us to entertain at our own homes a lot. We are a tight group of friends that love entertaining and we enjoy sharing our new/old/ friends with each other. I know that I am lucky to know such great people who are sincerely helping me with my transition.

    • Liz November 8, 2014 at 7:23 am #

      I’m so glad you have a tight group of good friends – that’s what gets us through life’s ups and downs, for certain.

  14. Dana @ Foodie Goes Healthy November 8, 2014 at 6:02 am #

    PS- love the china. Hope you get to enjoy it often. What I love about dinner parties is making everything look beautiful and special. I think the effort and care that goes into a dinner party is an act of love.

    • Liz November 8, 2014 at 7:23 am #

      Thanks – the soup bowl is from my grandmother and the plates are my mom’s Spode.

  15. Betsy @ Desserts Required November 8, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    Sadly, I think you are spot-on and that fewer and fewer people entertain at home. I still do and love every minute of it. I find people just go with the flow of the evening as long as I appear to be enjoying it, too!

    • Liz November 8, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

      I still do too, Betsy, and won’t be stopping any time soon.

  16. Sippitysup November 8, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    Dinner parties are still pretty popular among my friends. The Table Set (podcast) gets together for a group dinner where we all cook in one of our homes at least once a month. I thought that would stop once Joy moved but so far the tradition continues. Even my non-foodie (non-blog) friends (yes I have some of them too) like to throw dinner parties. My only complaint about those parties is they tend to be the same 6 or 8 people and we always talk about all the same things. GREG

    • Liz November 8, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

      I would love to have a Table Set group of my own – I never cook with anyone, although there is a part of me that is so controlling that I wonder if I could share my kitchen?

  17. Jayne November 9, 2014 at 12:22 am #

    What an interesting post! I still have people over for dinner and we go to friends for dinner but it’s usually just us and other couples. For us dinner parties really stopped when everyone started having children and even though those children are growing, most now prefer to meet at a restaurant so they get some time off! I love your table setting!

    • Liz November 9, 2014 at 7:31 am #

      Jayne, hope you will soon be blogging about your new adventures! Of course you like my table setting – all English bone china ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. Beth (OMG! Yummy) November 9, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    One of the things that really propelled me into food writing and blogging was the most fantastic supper/gourmet club that we were in for over 10 years. It was 4 couples — we met once a quarter – the couple that hosted chose the menu but we each did one course so nobody was overloaded. And we could go a little overboard and try harder things. We had the best chemistry and the best time. Then two couples moved and the two of us left tried to find new couples with a good chemistry and it was hard! And then life hits you like a ton of bricks with kid stuff and it’s so easy to just not entertain. Most of our gatherings these days are impromptu or centered around holidays. No matter how crazy it gets, I always host a huge gathering for the Jewish New Year and every single person is so happy that I take the time to pull us all together. But it is hard – the kids plus careers plus driving/commuting really puts a strain on planning. But I say it’s not dead – just on sabbatical for some of us ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Liz November 9, 2014 at 8:24 am #

      Not having been blessed with children, I kind of forgot what a huge factor that might play. The idea of a gourmet club has always appealed to me, though. My friend Jan has been in one for over 30 years and they are like a huge extended family – I so envy that!

  19. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef November 9, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    I love dinner parties and I do have them here at home. The return invitations are almost always for meeting at a restaurant. The reasons are always the same, ‘to save all the work and time.’

    I’m like you. Nothing is more fun than sitting around a table and laughing while eating really good food.

    • Liz November 9, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

      Ditto, Maureen, thanks for your comment – I am feeling supported by cooking friends who continue to cook for friends – but no more restaurant dates!

  20. Jean | November 11, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    Liz, this is so spot on, I might have dictated it to you! LOL But I will continue to cook for friends.

    • Liz November 12, 2014 at 9:35 am #

      It’s great to hear from folks like you, Jean – you seem to reflect a common attitude to keep on cooking and entertaining at home.

  21. Laura @ Family Spice November 12, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    We have family over all the time and our dinner parties tend to be family oriented. My friends don’t cook a lot or I get the “I’m too intimidated to cook for you” excuse. But I do have one couple who enjoys cooking as much as I do, so we still invite each other. I entertain a lot for family and seem to have no energy for friends to come over. Always a hostess and never a guest, I suppose?

    • Liz November 12, 2014 at 9:36 am #

      Have to agree with you, Laura, although our friend Jan has us over at least as often as we entertain her at our house.

  22. Oui, Chef November 12, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    Liz, Holiday dining aside, I’m afraid you’re right….very few people cook for company anymore and it makes me sad. I’m with you, there is hardly anything better than sharing food and wine with family and friends which is why Thanksgiving is by FAR my favorite holiday.

    • Liz November 12, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

      I agree, Steve, Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday as well. In fact, I am off to the market right now to order our turkey – we always get a big one.

  23. Jean | January 8, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    Liz, I just emailed a friend inviting her and her husband to come over this evening and have a sandwich with us! And I thought of you — and this post — when I did it! Just had to tell you about my fabulous dinner party! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Liz January 8, 2015 at 11:42 am #

      A great story – and, yes, sounds pretty “fabulous” !

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