Where have all the dinner parties gone?

Growing up in Napier my parents often hosted, and went to, ‘dinner parties’ where friends and neighbours had My Kitchen Rules style instant restaurants in their own homes for 6 – 10 people with a sumptuous 3 course meal.  Housework was done, recipes consulted, silver polished, wine selected and best clothing worn.  Often children attended but ate spaghetti on toast and stayed out of the way.

Spaghetti

These dinners allowed the lady of the house to prepare fancy dishes to impress her friends, work colleagues and neighbours who would then go all out to do better when they were the hostess.  These occasions were not only about the food as they also allowed the host and hostess to do some social engineering and introduce people to their wider networks.  As new food fads came and went they became the focus of the menus and I recall fondues, stir-fry, cordon bleu, microwaves, flambéd anything and micro-meals all having their place at the table and in later years an increase in the presence of foods from other cultures.  These were always fun and exciting events that we, as children, did our bit to assist with from cleaning the house to setting the table.

Mum & Dad still have their original Fondue Pot
Mum & Dad still have their original Fondue Pot

Fast forward to today….

Look around you in the staff lunch room and there will be people eating foods selected and portioned carefully from an “eating plan” or  diet – sometimes for specific & serious medical reasons and others for the vague objectives of “being healthier”.  They may even have one of those “prepared by a chef and nutritionist’ type meals from Jenny or Lite & Easy so they don’t even have to think about purchasing or preparing food.  There will be others eating take-aways or pies, often with an embarrassed excuse for eating bad, or receiving glares of disapproval from the more enlightened eaters.

How could you even begin to plan a staff lunch or prepare a dinner party for  these people in your own home???

Pears Belle Helene - one of Mums favourite desserts
Pears Belle Helene – one of Mums favourite desserts

All this healthy eating and fad dieting has created million dollar empires and wealthy gurus who spread their ‘truths’ to the vulnerable masses who fear disease and the mirror equally.  Gyms are popping up on every corner so that exercise can be done at our convenience under the guidance of toned trainers whose core mission is to keep us locked into some form of payment plan.  Supermarket aisles are full of low-fat, sugar-free, high protein, low carb, Paleo, Mediterranean, Atkins meal replacements and supplements.  Then there are the nut free, wheat free, meat free foods that just complicate things further.

Flambed Fruit
Flambed Fruit

…and the dinner party got lost as designing a menus that catered for all the current fads required a nutritionist, a chef and an a la carte menu to cater for your guests dietary requirements – it’s all too hard…..

Bring back the dinner party with its 3 courses of rich, decadent treats and the convivial atmosphere that such (occasional) indulgence produces.  

Bring back the dinner guest who was game to try anything.

Let every hostess loudly (and proudly) proclaim …MY KITCHEN RULES

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6 thoughts on “Where have all the dinner parties gone?

  1. Where did you get that photo of my fondue pot? And the flambeed fruit in the electric frypan – Several Bananas. a small tin of Mandarins, and a small tin of pineapple chunks sauteed in butter then flambeed with brandy and served over scoops of french vanilla ice cream – my mouth is watering just thinking about it! Decadent but – at least it was fruit and protein and only a little tablespoon or two of the butter. Thanks for the lovely memories….

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  2. I have the odd dinner party, and if my kids are eating there too, well, I just make the entire meal gluten free (my eldest is a Type 1 diabetic and Coeliac). I’ve cooked meals for people that have proclaimed that they *refuse* to eat gluten free because it is ‘tasteless’, ‘boring’ or to quote one person ‘some stupid fad diet’. They’ve not known it’s been made GF, and when I tell them that what was dished up was made completely GF they are shocked. Yes, it does make things a wee bit harder at times. But it’s possible. And the end result is still fun.

    On a side note, I remember going to a dinner party with my parents. It was not long before I met you Janey. All the adults there had thoroughly enjoyed their drinks. Enough so that I, being the only sober person there, had to strike an adults hand away from the oil in the fondue pot because they were about to pick up the piece of meat they dropped. I then had to do it to a different adult when it was melted cheese for dessert.

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    1. Yeah Theresa…there was often a lot of alcohol matched with the food (and before and after too).

      It is great how you are able to use your childrens genuine conditions to educate others into the way that their nutritional needs can be met in interesting and tasteful meals. This a true reflection of your dedication as a mother but also your ability to successfully adapt recipes.

      My real concern with the demise of the dinner party is the faux dietary requirements and fad eating trends that make it very difficult for the less competent culinary hostess to plan and create a menu to accommodate a group – thus deny us the convivial experiences yet (as you correctly note) keeping us safe from the dangers of such as the fondue pot, flambed fruits and nylon trouser suits.

      Keep up the good work

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  3. Lovely revisiting this one…. Hopefully, with the new patio, we can replicate some of the dinner parties again. I still have that fondue pot! 6/5/16!

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  4. Have just draged the brasier out, needs a new ash tray, now to find its best position and get a bag off heat beads

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