Dealing with the Dinner Party

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…   




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5 responses to “Dealing with the Dinner Party

  1. Jerk Queen

    what a fantastic idea Carly, I love that programme! Do let us know how it goes, maybe I’ll attempt one later in the year if it goes smoothly. Might have to think of something other than Jerk to make though as most of my friends have had that now!

  2. Carly

    am all for dinner parties where as much as possible is prepared beforehand – allows more time to relax and enjoy the evening! Have done a couple of stew type dishes which have gone down v well but the last couple of dinner parties which we have held I have made a thai meal with a fairly slow cooked curry being the centrepiece – both times my guests have had 2nd & in 1 case 3rd’s and although it took a lot of time during the day to prepare as I make the curry paste from scratch there was no standing over a stove cooking in the evening.

    A group of us are attempting our own ‘Come dine with me’ the first wkend of every month for 5 mths starting in March so it will be interesting to see what our friends come up with and should be good fun!

  3. Jerk Queen

    I have done a big Jerk curry a few times which always goes down well. I’m definitely with you on the sit and enjoy the company rather than slave away in the kitchen. The issue I have is that inevitably there are vegetarians/i don’t like bananas type people which makes the simplest of dishes in to a stress!

    Dinner parties are the way forward, ditch the fear and get cooking I say…!

  4. Egrace

    I’m right with you on the preparing ahead… I’m talking smoked salmon and bubbles for starters, a posh fish pie or beef casserole and a lemon tart with raspberries on top for pud – fuss-free, homemade and tasty (so I’m told!) Can’t bare to be sweating it out in the kitchen, missing out on all the gossip in the other room!

  5. Emma MT

    I love to have people round for dinner and have often made a giant stew and it ALWAYS goes down well, especially when the weather is cold and wet outside. I love my home to be welcoming and nothing makes guest unwind and relax like a warm stew. I also always cook from scratch and pudding is always the highlight of the meal- whatever it is. Apple pie is a firm fav and I serve it with a honeycomb ice cream. I’m hungrey now!

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