I’d rather streak than order takeaway for anyone other than my closest friend

Who is to blame for the media’s continuing obsession with the demise of the dinner party? At this point, I’m not precisely sure – though as I write, doubtless some poor PhD student is hard at it, tracing the dots between our postwar literary culture, Katherine Whitehorn’s 1963 appropriation of the word “slut”, the early work of Mike Leigh and M&S’s new prosecco-flavoured crisps. All I can tell you is that I have been reading articles on the subject at least twice a year for the past two decades. Long ago, I was even asked to write one myself. As I recall, I got out of it on the grounds that I (and everyone I knew) was then living in a flat so miniature, I could no more have pictured myself throwing a dinner party than I could have imagined life without bottled pesto.

These pieces used to focus on the idea that “entertaining” was a chore – naturally, our diligent PhD student will at this point cross reference to “Conran, S”, who in 1975 decreed that life was “too short to stuff a mushroom” – and that “formality” had long since gone the same way as the (bricked-up) serving hatch between kitchen and dining room. The writer would throw in a few moss-encrusted jokes about voluminous peach dresses, Blue Nun and hostess trolleys and – presto! – job done, give or take the odd reassuring line about the relative easiness of lasagne or roast chicken, and the fact that “everyone eats in the kitchen now”.

Lately, though, they have taken on a misanthropic new bent. A particularly mean-spirited one I read the other day – and in the weeks before Christmas, season of goodwill to all men! – moved smoothly through the old news that in 2015, it is apparently perfectly acceptable to order in a takeaway for your guests, after which it came to a kind of screeching halt. Ah yes, the guests. Actually, we need to backtrack a touch. Don’t delude yourself. Wherever you ask these friends to sit, and whatever you serve them once their behind is safely in the designated spot, the simple truth is that no one really wants to be asked to dinner. If your guests have turned up at all, it is only thanks to their warped sense of obligation. They might well be busily chewing their prawn jalfrezi, or whatever it is you’ve supplied at vast and generous cost. But every mouthful is sauced with their own resentment: at the cost of the babysitter, at the television they’re missing, at the tedious bore you have placed next to them. To sum up: they would far rather be at home watching The Bridge in their pyjamas than in your house pretending to like your ghastly friends.

Gosh. I couldn’t get with this programme at all, and not only because I would rather streak than order takeaway for anyone other than my very closest friend. For one thing, unless you’re planning on live tweeting The Bridge, it is perfectly easy to turn down an invitation you don’t fancy. An email claiming a prior engagement will suffice. For another, it seems to me that people like to be asked out. I know that I do, and unless my pals are all, unbeknown to me, graduates of Rada, I think they do, too. Isn’t it good, in this horrible, atomised world, to see your friends? And isn’t it also, occasionally, lovely to meet new people? I refuse to subscribe to the idea that once a person hits 40, they have neither the urge nor the room for new acquaintances. I meet new people whom I like and want to cleave to my bosom all the time. OK, so they sometimes run away, alarm in their eyes. But better that than the reclusion that comes with spending too much time jabbing feebly at your mobile phone.

Twenty five years on, then, I am minded finally to write that feature – only to my own rules. The dinner party isn’t dead, even if no one calls it that any more, thank God, and throwing one is perfectly straightforward. First, think of some people you’d like to see, and who might like to see each other. Then email them to set a date. After this, ponder what you can make for them to eat: something delicious but not terribly effortful. Get some wine in. Iron a few napkins if you must. (I am great believer in napkins.) Put a frock on if you fancy it, but if you don’t, remain in your jeans and a pair of dangly earrings. If you’re the cook, wear flat shoes. Er, that’s it. These rules also apply to high days and holidays, including Christmas. A turkey is just a big chicken, after all, and the more people there are around your table to scoff it, the better.

[Source:- The Gurdian]

By Adam