The Demise of the Dinner Party

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The napkins are nicely folded in the cupboard, as is the tablecloth and the silver gets polished periodically. I think they came out last Christmas but maybe not – even then we did it casual.
Has the dinner party really gone – never to be seen again or is it just a passing phase?

I used to blame it on pregnancy, young children and an early Saturday morning radio show but as the kids grow and no longer need attending to at 6 am there is still a distinct lack of enthusiasm and invitations to dinner.

15 years ago I used to spend all of Saturday shopping for produce, preparing courses and making dessert. Come 7 pm the table was set, the candles lit and we were sitting suitably attired with a glass of wine in hand and the music on. The wine was even matched to the courses!
Glasses matched, the table was coordinated and there were always flowers on the table and in the loo.

Now, we still entertain but it is likely to be a last minute call to friends at 3pm, a dash to the shops for ingredients, gardening clothes still on and a wine or two over some noodles, curry, pizza or pasta. Sometimes dinner may be a gathering around a sporting event – in which case dinner is served on lap in front of a large screen.

Do people still do dinner parties I wonder and are we, the double working parents of more than 2 children the odd ones out here?
Are there those who still spend Saturday in the kitchen preparing?
We used to do it and I wonder what stopped it?

Surely there is something quite lovely about the conviviality of a dinner party, the absence of noisy children, the ability to get dressed for something and of course the chance to pore through recipe books and cook favourite dishes.

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16 thoughts on “The Demise of the Dinner Party

  1. I need to admit that your post is truly interesting.
    I’ve spent lots of my spare time reading your content. Thank you a whole lot!

  2. I love `doing` dinner parties – the more courses and more challenging the recipes, the better. I usually prepare a menu a week or so before hand, and then spend up to 2-3 nights prior prepping up the basics. While I enjoy spending all this time on dinner parties, I do it for the food experience. I love having people experiencing what I cook, but am disappointed that some do not bother to at least prepare something themselves – I would rather have somthing prepared with love rather than bought from a supermarket. – having a cornetto ice cream after a great main with $400 bottles of wine is somewhat confusing. Where are all those who love to have people cook for them and reciprocate?

  3. We regularly have a dinner party with different sets of friends be it one we plan or a pot luck everyone contributes to or just a pizza night with kids. However with the economic downturn and all of us feeling the pinch but still wanting to have fun we came up with a plan! $10 night. :-)
    It is hosted at one couples house each 6 weeks and they do the nibbles and coffee and their $10 dish. The other couples just come with their $10 dish and wine. I has been a lot of fun and surprising what creations can be made for $10. One couple had a theme dress up also on their turn which was a lot of fun.
    Personally I think $10 is a little too frugal – I would say $10 each and thats still a cheap night. Its more about getting together and sharing a meal and wine and good company. We dont laugh enough these days!

  4. There’s definitely a difference in my book – if it wasn’t a formal event, you would never use the Waterford crystal and Wedgwood china, and that would be such a shame. I tell friends when I invite them whether it’s a dinner party or a casual supper. Perhaps it’s just our circle of friends but they will dress accordingly and will bring a better bottle of wine and chocolates if it’s a dinner party.

  5. What do you think it is that constitutes a dinner party and is there anything in particular the differentiates a dinner party from having friends over for dinner?
    Is a dinner party neccessarily formal?
    Should there be a cloth on the table and the good “stuff” brought out to eat and drink with?
    I tend to relate dinner parties to Kate’s story and the thought of all that effort makes me feel tired.
    I still have people over but more often than not I am in my jeans without a trace of makeup and the food is casual.

  6. I remember the dinner parties my mother used to throw when I was a child. It was all very formal, many courses, everyone dressed up and she would be preparing and cooking for up to three days in advance. We still joke about how the table would be set days beforehand!. All the beautiful crockery, cutlery, crystal and candles.

    She also had the best stocked liquor cabinet in town. I remember going to the liquor store with her and she would fill up a trolley! That way, no matter what her guests wanted to drink, she had it.

    I remember being allowed to stay up long enough to say hello to the guests before being off to bed.

    It all rubbed off on me. I used to throw a lot of dinner parties when my children were young. I could get the little darlings fed and to bed by 7pm and then enjoy the night with great wine, fantastic food and good friends. But as the children grew up and were reluctant to go to bed that early, the peaceful night with friends has these days turned into a casual BBQ with friends and their children where everyone brings a salad, dessert or some meat.

    Not the same really is it? I have decided recently to bring the dinner party back into my life as I really enjoy every aspect of it… but it hasnt happened yet. Maybe once the uni semester is over (I am currently studying full time) I will get all the fancy stuff out and make the effort.

  7. We often have people over for dinner. I like to call it a dinner party, but I dont tend towards the 6 courses like Lynette – I think i need to try that! We always have nibbles, which are usually something to pick at and one thing to pass around, main and dessert. It is usually fairly informal and while i try to make the table look nice, I really should make more of an effort. Unfortunately while we have been living in our house for the last year waiting on the building to start, most of our good stuff has been packed away, so it is just the everyday dinner set, cutlery and glasses. I cant wait to un-pack all the good stuff in another 6-8 months time!

  8. We have a good group of friends that get together most weekends (8 adults 9 kids) and we have a sit down meal together. We split up who co`ordinates the children` s meals, nibbles & desserts. the kids are served first, and once they have eaten and are happy, we adults sit and eat. Usually whoever`s house it is hosted at makes the adults meals. We have had mexican, italian, indian, it`s great fun. Yes it is a huge effort, but well worth it.

  9. After reading these I am inspired to get back into dinner party life!
    I am ashamed to say that my Saturday nights have become really precious – early dinner and then a good book or the paper in bed! I am not sure how I got so old and boring…..
    I will pick a date and then work on getting the inspiration and inclination!

  10. We occasionally do dinner parties. With two young children I cannot devote a day to shopping and preparation very often. I do love them when I do it though- and the setting of the table, music selection and clothing selection are all part of the fun. It can be an expensive exercise though!

    We more often have wine and nibbles with friends, have brunches, or do a shared type meal.

  11. We regularly have dinner parties, I LOVE to entertain and it is always a good opportunity to try new flavours and recipes (especially desserts as I have plenty of mouths to finish it off and dont get left with it tempting me the next day!)
    I always do the full table setting, candles, napkins, etc….love it!

  12. I can’t remember the last time we had a dinner party – many moons ago when I spent days planning, shopping, preparing for several courses! To be honest, once the children came on the scene that was the demise of the dinner party!!

  13. I love dinner parties. Yes it can be a bit time consuming and costly. I may be a little odd, but I am prepared to spend the better part of a day planning, preparing and cooking a meal for myself or for two.

    The last dinner party I had in June was a combined effort. Three of us met (the blokes) earlier in the week over a bottle of plonk to sork out what we were going to cook and the shopping etc. It was not a pot luck dinner as we shared the preperation and worked out who was going to cook what etc. My place is just large enough to swing a cat, but we found space in the kitchin in the lounge and on deck to sort things out (It was raining). It was a load of fun.

  14. I love hosting dinner parties and I do it a lot. Fortunately, my group of friends enjoy it so we regularly spend all day Saturday putting on a special dinner for no other reason than to enjoy good food and good wine together. In fact, I have a birthday coming up and it is the first time that I will be home for it (as I am usually travelling) so have decided to celebrate it with a dinner party. It may be hard work on what is supposed to be my birthday, but such nights are so much fun, it is worth all the effort. I usually do six courses – hors d’oeuvres, entree, sorbet, main, dessert, cheese followed by something sweet to have with coffee (baileys fudge, chocolate coated coffee beans, etc).

    Whilst guests always bring a bottle of wine, I never serve it as I like to ensure the wine matches the course plus I prefer to be able to top up a glass without having to worry that it’s a different bottle.

  15. Interestingly, I was the same, but on a regular basis, we still set the table with the right glasses, including water ones, bring out the candles and I do a 3-4 course dinner. We enjoy the chance to sit and relax with a lovely meal and friends but wish we could do it more often, but lifestyle dictates. We are going out for dinner tonight and I know that the table with be beautifully set and the cutlery and crockery dug out of the back cupboard as thsi is how this couple entertain on a regular basis, which is really neat. Admittedly they are in their 60’s but I enjoy the speciality of the night with good friends and beautiful surroundings and great food.

  16. We used to have pretty good dinner parties, and then we all started having kids. So for the last 10 years, we all get together once a month for pizza night. Mostly we try to out do each other with ever more exotic toppings, but otherwise with so many kids hanging around, it’s very informal, mostly eaten standing up.
    However, for my 40th birthday last year, we organized a 13 course Degustation. Every couple brought and served one course, we all dressed up properly, there was no kids in sight, the best crystal and cutlery made an appearance and it was freakin’ spectacular.
    So we’re doing another one in November. We all can’t wait!