Since the lovely financial crisis hit, there’s been a lot of press about staying in being the new going out. The dinner party has had a renaissance; as we’ve seen from the frequent emails and calls from w&h readers needing entertaining advice.
But what are we all cooking? In the nouvelle cuisine days of the 80s, the dinner party was seen as a social ladder, and the more intricate the scalloping of your potatoes, the higher your social standing.
But now we live in a post-Jamie era, where it’s not only socially acceptable, but almost de rigeur to plonk something pukka in the middle of the table and let guests toast their own bread for the pâté.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this sort of entertaining. As my friends will testify, they rarely get anything more fancy than a casserole when they come to me for dinner, and starters are almost unheard of. That’s not to say I don’t make an effort – everything is made from scratch, there’s always a pudding, usually some fabulously stinky cheese and occasionally homemade bread to go with it.
But I am a fan of the prep-ahead style of catering, and really don’t want to be doing anything more stressful at the last minute than chopping some herbs.
While I favour this approach to dinners, I do wonder whether most people are brave enough to say ‘we’re just having a stew this evening’.
From talking to friends about it, I rather get the impression that people still feel the need to ‘perform’ when they have people round, and often end up being over-ambitious and not enjoying themselves.
That said, of course many people like to cook elaborately for the pleasure of it. Since I do it all day anyway, I can rarely motivate myself to be rushing around the kitchen in leisure time. I’d far rather be sitting with my friends and a glass of wine!
How do you ‘deal with the dinner party’? I’d love to hear other people’s stories…