(R)evolution of the dinner party

Sam Wilson talks about dinner parties 101.

by: Sam Wilson | 05 Aug 2010

I have a guilty secret. My sons and I are completely addicted to Come Dine With Me. For those of you not DSTVing, this is a show where four foodie folk sign up to throw a dinner party, competing against each other over four nights to win a thousand pounds.

Almost every week night, we gather in front of the television to watch in horror as people proudly present tuna, beans and a chopped onion as ‘the ultimate starter”, or savage each other’s lingerie choices (yes, while the host is prepping, the guests are allowed to snoop) or even fall asleep at each other’s tables after a few too many vats of wine.

And yes, there’s a lot of seriously nice food too.

But what has struck me the most, during all these hours spent voyeuristically examining other people’s dinner party styles, is how much dinner parties have changed over the last 30 years.

In my parents’ day, you dressed up for a dinner party. As the host, you made the fanciest, most complicated meal you could and served the best wines you could afford. As this ‘showcasing your home and talent’ aspect of dinner parties was tacitly understood, everyone behaved accordingly.

I watch some contestants on Come Dine With Me using this 60s dinner party logic. Indeed, I defaulted to it myself the other day, cooking for my parents, spending two days with my elbows in stock pots. It’s what we choose to do when we want to impress or if we are nervous. And while impressive... it just doesn’t cut the mustard any more.

The truth is, the best dinner parties are when the host makes something he or she is confident cooking, and which leaves lots of time for chatting to guests. Because nowadays, we don’t go to dinner parties to be impressed, we go to enjoy our friends and to have a relaxing night out.

And it’s not easy to relax if you’re worried about getting profiterole chocolate on your hostess’s vintage white table cloth.

Do you agree with me? Or is this just an excuse I’ve made up to justify my predilection for throwing make-your-own-nachos nights? Please let us know what you think.

Oh, and there’s a R250 Kalahari voucher for the person who sends in the dinner party mains recipe that we like the best. Who knows, maybe we’ll try come dine with you!

One thing that HAS seemed to really hit the spot is our Budget Dinner Series. Chef Caro has been scouring the shops for the best, most economical combinations, but there’s a Food24 apron up for grabs if you send in your favourite end-of-the-month meal.

Read more on: sam wilson  |  2010


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