The death of the dinner party 4



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Remember when people used to host dinner parties for their close friends and acquaintances? It seems like this was a regular occurrence back in the 1960s and 70s, when we would invite our friends over for an evening of food, drinks and entertainment.

Now the shining era of dinner parties seems to be over. There is less showmanship and planning for the arrival of guests; the notion of setting out a planned menu, a beautiful table and a dessert trolly full of lovely sweets has fallen by the wayside.

Entertaining guests was different then. We planned weeks in advance, organised and scheduled, carefully curating the night and thinking of everything from drinks and entrees to dessert and music.

What changed between now and then? Is it the fact that more women are in the workplace now, meaning there’s less time to organise events like this, or is it just the changing face of society where we fill our time with other avenues of entertainment?

To hark back to the golden era of dinner parties for a moment, it was that glorious time in history when the world was enjoying a boom in both culture and money.

The post-war era of food rationing was over and people were exploring new ideas and new tastes.

Suddenly kitchens were filled with the smells of Crepes Suzette, cheese fondu and Duck a L’Orange.

Guests arrived at parties and were served Cinzano and lemonade, prawn cocktails, and elegant desserts like Black Forrest Gateau.

The idea of being the perfect hostess was something many women aspired to; not in a strange Stepford Wives way either. It was about enjoying time with your friends and providing a night of fun and entertainment where you could enjoy good food and good company.

The dinner party has slowly died though. Now there is more of a trend towards casual affairs, where guests each bring a plate and drinks to share or food is thrown onto a barbecue.

There’s nothing wrong with these forms of entertaining of course, it just seems as though we have lost a time-honoured tradition.

The idea of wheeling out a trolley full of carefully selected drinks to guests is the kind of memory that brings up feelings of nostalgia; a record playing in the background, men in dinner jackets and women neatly dressed.

The conversation was lively and everyone shared their own stories and their own ideas. Happy debate was important and generally only made the night funnier or more interesting as guests sat around the dinner table.

So can we, or should we, find our way back to this tradition? Or is it something to leave in the past and hope the next generation picks up one day and enjoys nights of laughter, fun and food with their friends like we used to?

Tell us what you think?

Did you used to host dinner parties for your friends? Do you still have dinner parties? What was your favourite meal to serve to your guests?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. We certainly did, and I pulled out all the stops, mulling over the items I would be cooking.
    We can no longer afford to do that!, and anyway life is more casual, might be a couple of friends for a casserole or a curry now, or I do a really good old roast with all the trimmings. Time is short so if its not an apple pie it might be a bought dessert, (horrors) Had a friend who kept a book to record what she did, so there were no repeats. Times change.

  2. I’m 67. Getting merry with a few drinks was an important part of traditional socialising. Modern drink-driving laws and the high cost of taxis etc make it difficult to attend these parties like we used to.

  3. We have hosted many a dinner party, with all the trimmings, these past few years and they were a lot of work and a lot of fun. For some reason (maybe we are boring) our friends and family do not return the favor, or if they do invite us over for dinner it is more casual, they set up the table and surroundings and prepared most of the meal in the kitchen while we are waiting at the dinner table.

  4. It’s plain hard work is my main response. We would rather meet up with friends at a restaurant where we can all relax & enjoy the company instead of me spending at least all day preparing & most of the evening in the kitchen.

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