It’s that time of year again. The temps are dropping, the leaves are changing color (well, at least I hear that they are changing in some places!!) and the days are growing shorter.
It’s dinner party season.
That sounds odd, doesn’t it? Did you know that entertaining is seasonal? It is in my world.
When we lived in New Jersey, I loved the rhythm of our lives. Summer was outside fun, picnics and barbecues, trips to the shore. . .we gathered for holidays like the Fourth of July, Memorial and Labor Days, eating lots of fresh vegetables and meat that was cooked over an open fire. People vacationed, and so often we would go weeks without seeing some family members or friends. In short, the living was easy and relaxed.
But when fall arrived, it wasn’t only the leaves changing. We also moved into a different pattern of gathering and socializing. Many months, my calendar between September and December would be filled to overflowing. We hosted and attended dinners, birthday parties and other celebrations. I loved those days.
But in Florida, there are different rhythms, and I am only just beginning to regain my appreciation of entertaining. A few weeks ago we threw our first dinner of the fall season, and I so enjoyed it. I was reminded of why I love to host dinner parties.
What is the point of a dinner party? First and foremost, it’s an opportunity for people to gather around the table and catch up on each other’s lives. In these busy days, sometimes we need more than a quick phone call or email; we need the intimacy of sharing a meal and ourselves.
I was discussing this with several friends recently. They all had different reasons for not entertaining.
“No one has dinner parties anymore,” one observed. “There isn’t enough time. Everyone is too busy.”
“I get too stressed out,” another confided. “Cooking makes me nervous enough; having to cook for people I don’t know that well AND have my house spotless? I don’t think so!”
“Who can afford to do that in these times?” retorted a third.
And so, as I am wont to do, I decided that since my friends cannot be the only ones who feel this way, entertaining is a perfect topic for an article series, particularly at this time of year.
Let’s talk about that first excuse. It’s certainly true that none of us seem to have any extra time these days. We’re too busy running from appointment to obligation, working hard to keep body and soul together. But it’s also true that after a while, you might have a hard time remembering why. What good is working for a living when you realize that in reality, you’re merely existing?
If we don’t take the time to savor a little of life, what’s the point? And how do we go about savoring? I wouldn’t say that socializing is the only way or reason to slow down and enjoy, but it’s certainly one of them. A good dinner party is a terrific chance to connect with other human beings who will offer you a different perspective on any number of topics.
I believe that a really successful gathering has a few key elements: good food, whether it is simple or more complicated; a nice variety of people who hold unique points of view; and the opportunity both to learn something new and to share of some of yourself with other people.
Can we live without a full social life? Absolutely. But why on earth would you want to do that?
With that in mind, in this series I’m going to address the best and simplest tips for hosting a lovely dinner party, demonstrating that you need not be a gourmet cook nor spend lots of money to give all of your guests a wonderful and scintillating evening.
Stay tuned, and get ready for some fun.