As time moves on many things in our lives change. Some for the good and others for the bad. But there is one thing that has changed and we can’t help but wonder – why? Do you remember the day you were ready to use your fondue set for the first time?
The table was set using the good silverware, the menu was planned with entré, mains and fondue and the food was an added bonus to the night – not the main focus. The main focus was each other – sharing each other’s company and having conversations with friends.
Hannie Rayson described this change in her biography, Hello Beautiful, by saying, “People are suffering from performance anxiety at the prospect of entertaining their friends at home; the modern ‘fetishisation’ of food has contributed to less conviviality rather than more. If only we were content to throw a few chops on the barbie and serve them up with a green salad, we’d see more of each other.”
And if you think about it, this is very true. People get so caught up in the “image” of entertaining that they let it get too big to handle – and too expensive! When it was once acceptable to serve spaghetti bolognaise as a main or have a delicious, steaming warm crockpot meal, now things must be crusted in something and served with jus, using the most obscure meat cuts and awkward vegetables for people to consider it a good meal! The price of these foods only adds up to be quite expensive when you’re cooking for large numbers and so, it becomes incredibly difficult to entertain on a regular basis.
It wasn’t uncommon to have a dinner party almost every second week back in the day, and our social calendars were filled with them.
But there’s another thing that has contributed to the demise of the dinner party – the way we interact with others. The art of true, meaningful conversation is slowly being lost and people more often than not would rather talk about themselves than engage in discussion with others. Perhaps part of this comes down to the changing modes of communication. Social media is very self-centric. We choose to only see what we want to see and we choose what to say to who and if we’re not interested in someone else’s achievement, story or moment, we simply ignore it! The conversation of a dinner party was so great because everyone shared their own stories and their own ideas in between listening to everyone else’s. Happy debate was also important and generally only made the night funnier or more interesting. So if we don’t like to converse and don’t like to hear what other people have to say, then what’s the point at all?
If it’s too expensive and if we don’t enjoy it like we once did we have to ask ourselves, why would anyone want to have them? So based on that theory is the demise of the dinner party, in fact, our very own fault?
The thing is that if we can move past the self-centred communication and bring back traditional, engaging discussion with friends, then it comes down to money. And that is a problem we can definitely solve! There’s no need to go fancy. Make a large one-pot stew and serve with rice. Have a themed night and ask everyone to bring a dish! It takes the workload off you and every gets to enjoy something they like. Actually, our lovely book club coordinator, Karen, reminded me that in the dinner parties of yesterday, everyone would bring something and the homeowner would provide just that – a home!