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Are dinner parties passé?

I feel like I'm the only person who has dinner parties anymore as I rarely get invited to one and when I do, it's hosted by people significantly older than me. I mostly get invited to wine/cheese things, potlucks, barbeques, cocktail parties, wine tastings and other casual gatherings. Are dinner parties passé?

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        1. re: Beachowolfe

          Yuckers! I'm turning 67 in June :)

          1. re: c oliver

            I really thought this was an age thing... I'm surprised that at 51 you don't go to dinner parties.

            1. re: Beachowolfe

              Since you raised the age issue, how old are you?

              1. re: amoule

                30 (ugh)

                And I've never been to a dinner party that was more than another couple having a few people over to eat before we went to the bar, if that makes sense. Nothing of the sort that my parents had when I was growing up where I would be relegated to a "kids only" area.

            2. re: c oliver

              you all are bonkers! my poppa is 75 and is not even close to "old" no one is close to "old" until 94

              1. re: girloftheworld

                Thank you GOTW! Let us cook together sometime, And you can be my foster/adopted grandniece.

                  1. re: girloftheworld

                    I have a couple of friends who are 75, and 78 respectively and who are not "old" except in years. But some people are old at 35. Hell, some are old at 25...

          2. And how do you define "dinner party"?

            9 Replies
            1. re: c oliver

              I'm not sure about a definition, but here's what I typically do:

              - I usually have 6-12 people
              - I set the table nicely, choose pleasant music
              - I plan a menu of great dishes (usually previously tested)
              - I prepare all the food myself
              - We typically have hors d'oeuvres in the living room with wine, then move to the dining room
              - I usually have 3 courses

              It's pretty much the same format my parents used. Should I update something here?

              1. re: amoule

                Well, I'm 66 so it's not an age factor :) I have a CH friend who is a great cook whose friends generally don't reciprocate and it seems it's because she cooks so much better than the average person that they're intimidated. Which is so ridiculous since much of us love eating and visiting with others at their homes or ours.

                1. re: c oliver

                  We see this phenomenon. If the dinner party is too well done, it is intimidating.

                2. re: amoule

                  No, don't change a thing! Just let me know how close you live to Orange County CA.

                  And I will be happy to reciprocate.

                    1. re: amoule

                      I love Seattle.....hopefully you'd enjoy Monarch Beach (just south of Laguna).

                      I learned my entertaining from a grandmother who used silver for every meal and some kind of fresh centerpiece as well- even if it was a few blooms in a little vase at breakfast:)

                  1. re: amoule

                    I'm 35, and apart from the 6-12 people, this is how we usually entertain. Usually we have one couple over for dinner, sometimes with kids. Occasionally we have two couples over for dinner, or family members. (We have a small house, and our dining table only seats six comfortably). Food can be more or less casual, and I don't always have 3 courses, but usually hors d'oeuvres, main with sides, and dessert.

                    Last night we had some friends over and I served cheese and crackers before dinner, then braised short ribs with polenta and roasted brussels sprouts, then blackberries with meringues and orange flower flavored whipped cream (a variation on Eton mess) for dessert. This isn't uncommon among our friends, though I like to cook more than most people, and our youngest goes to bed early, so we host more often than not.

                    1. re: amoule

                      If people come and enjoy themselves, why update anything? There's no right or wrong here, other people just have different preferences as to how they want to entertain friends.

                  2. They are only passé because people are lazy. Its a lot of work but I love getting out the dishes etc. I'm 36.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: daislander

                      Lazy because they prefer to throw a different kind of party than you do?

                      1. re: LeoLioness

                        No because they rather go out to a restaurant.

                        We do moslty potluck or grab a plate at the stove and watch a hockey game dinners. Never formal. Why do formal when you can go out for a fancy dinner if you want one I think is the thinking.

                        1. re: daislander

                          I'm not sure I'd classify that preference as "lazy". Most of the time, a trained chef at a good restaurant will provide a better meal than a home cook if you're in the mood for a fine dining experience.

                          1. re: LeoLioness

                            I would take a meal cooked with love at someones home that might not taste as good then go out to a restaurant with a 'trained chef' any day.

                            If you don't have the space or dishes then its not lazy. If you just don't want to pull everything out and get your house ready and cook then its lazy.

                          2. re: daislander

                            Since we don't have a TV in the living room, that's not going to happen at our house :)

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I grew up with out a tv. Now I very much enjoy sitting around watch a game or movie with a bunch of friends eating a home cooked meal or pizza.

                            2. re: daislander

                              But what you are describing is not the dinner party the OP was describing. OP does get invited to casual get togethers like you describe (though I don't think we know about the hockey part of it).

                              But apparently you are too lazy to throw the kind of dinner party OP described. ;)

                              1. re: debbiel

                                And where did she 'describe' what kind of dinner party you think she is talking about? or were you to lazy go back and read she didn't give one?

                                The way this thread has gone I said below that she obviously meant formal. I can't believe people are still arguing about this when dinner party can mean anything unless stated formal or casual.

                                1. re: daislander

                                  Well, I was mostly reacting to your suggesting folks were lazy as the reason for not having dinner parties. But yes, OP described what he/she meant by dinner party a few hours after starting the thread. And then cut and paste that description at least one other time in the thread.

                            3. re: LeoLioness

                              Some people don't live in a space that allows for dinner parties. And while I happen to enjoy entertaining friends at home, I can certainly understand why it may not appeal to others. Or be practical. Calling them "lazy" is pretty harsh and judgmental.

                              1. re: globocity

                                luckily my friends are not uptight and would admit it. As I admit I am to lazy to have as many dinner partys as I would like. I am all for cooking a main and bringing it to anyones else's house. But I cannot work,get my whole house clean and suitable, and shop and cook the meal and clean. My other half would not help. Harsh or judgemental = truth hurts I guess. I wasn't aiming it at you. Just the general attitude I see towards have a formal dinner party. Nobody wants extra stress, maybe thats why smaller casual is the way it is now.

                          3. Yes, they are rare nowadays. Everybody's too busy. A dinner party takes a lot of time. Most of my friends meet @ someone's house for drinks then we go to a restaurant. Much easier but I wouldn't turn down any invitation to a dinner party because they are more intimate than a restaurant meal.

                            42 Replies
                            1. re: zackly

                              I get the feeling that you and OP may be a lot younger than some of us. We NEVER do what you describe. Dinner parties (and I define that as four to eight usually) are our fave way to entertain. And over the years as I've aged and hopefully gotten wiser, I don't make it as much work as I used to. An app, a main, a starch, a vegetable, a dessert. Easy peasy if one chooses it to be. And I do.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I'm 64 and a retired chef. I never do anything nice and easy. I'm either all-in or all-out..My reputation is on the line every meal! I have a huge ego when it comes to cooking. It drives my wife crazy but I tell her I'm like a gunslinger who has to defend his rep whenever a new kid comes to town. I never want to let anyone leave my house less than thrilled with the experience.

                                1. re: zackly

                                  And that's why they're rare for you and common for me. I figured out some years ago that it's about the coming together more than the food. We had a dinner party one time the day we moved. It was takeout pizza and salad and jug wine. But the table was pretty, the candles were lit and everyone had a GREAT time.

                                  I'm curious. Do you entertain friends? I figure my friends have little interest in "reputation."

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I do one big informal bbq for 25-30 people in the summer and cook often for friends but not what I would call dinner parties.

                                    1. re: zackly

                                      z, I have a feeling your definition is different from mine. And that's not a problem for me :) Or you :)

                                  2. re: zackly

                                    Gee, Zackly, I'm not a professional chef, but my cooking skills are exceptional. I can identify with your reputation being on-the-line when people taste your preparations. We are 56 years of age, and I wish we still had the time to do dinner parties. We organized a Gourmet Group when we were in our mid. 30s. There would be a theme (usually by nationality), and everyone would prepare a dish to fit in. Fun conversation &/or good intellectual discourse was always a great part of these parties! The host rotated, but the host would prepare the entrée, use his/her home as the venue, and provide the matching background music/ambience. These were lots of fun, but no ones gourmet cooking skills were on par with mine. Clearly my ego is also huge when it comes to preparing fine cuisine. I would treasure being in a Gourmet Group with more "Chef Zacklys"!!! -JET

                                    1. re: Jet

                                      Jet, My wife, who was born about 50 years too late, talks fondly of her parents circle of friends and all the things they did together like pre-bowling league pot luck suppers, progressive dinners where they would move from house to house for different courses with cocktails @ each stop (this was pre-Mad Mothers)
                                      beach dinners etc. She actually looked for a Gourmet Group to participate in but couldn't find one around here among our peer group (55-65). The only one she found involved 20 something hipsters.We live in suburban NYC (CT) and everyone is so harried that planning & executing a dinner party is just too much work. With the high concentration of good restaurants in our area it's just so much easier to go out. Maybe this will change when our friends retire in the next ten years, I hope so.

                                    2. re: zackly

                                      I can identify with what you're saying. I get invited to a lot of potlucks and like to maintain a reputation as someone who can be counted on to bring something really good.

                                      Having people over to my house, though, is a little different. I feel like I should treat my guests well. I like to give them something really delicious; I want to give my best.

                                      Keep up your standards.

                                    3. re: c oliver

                                      "An app, a main, a starch, a vegetable, a dessert. Easy peasy if one chooses it to be. And I do."

                                      For me this describes just having people over for dinner, it is not what a dinner party is to me.

                                      1. re: LaLa

                                        Do tell? How many courses are required to be served in order for it to qualify as a dinner party to you?

                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                          It's not just the food, it's the tablecloth, the china, the silver, the cloth napkins, the crystal glasses. I like to plan a pitcher of a "theme" cocktail too, in addition to a full bar. When people come to dinner here, and see the set table, they often seem taken aback. Once the food comes out and the wine flows, things start to relax, and conversation always is the main course as far as I'm concerned. That's a dinner party to me.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            I guess my dinners don't qualify. I have tablecloths, but they are colourful casual ones. I gave the crystal glasses I had to a charity shop not long ago - friends prefer the little Duralex tumblers we usually use for wine, water and most other things. I preferred to use that shelf for little jars of stuff (sambals, small jars of good pasta sauce etc). Trying to pare down and get rid of stuff I don't use.

                                            There is plenty of wine (we all live in central urban neighbourhoods and can take the métro, bus or a short taxi ride) but not a full bar. One friend does enjoy making martinis or mojitos.

                                            1. re: lagatta

                                              As long as you're having friends over, that's all that matters.

                                            2. re: coll

                                              But you are retired and thus have the time and resources to commit to that right? I do too because I am semi retired since last year and I have the free time and income that is required. But because I live in N. California about 50 minutes east of Napa county my b/f and I decided that this year we are going to dine at several of the renowned restaurants in Yountville.....St.Helena....Healdsburg and Napa over the summer.Let the restaurant do all of the *heavy* lifting so to speak:)

                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                Why do you think I'm retired? I have been the hostess with the mostest since I was first married in my early 20s. Then again, my career involves the restaurant business so that may make a difference in how I perceive hosting large groups of people.

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  Maybe I confused you with someone else but I thought you had posted several times on other threads that you and your husband had retired. You from the restaurant supply/ distribution field? Or relocated or something? My bad:)

                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                    I'm on a medical leave of absence due to hubby's illness, but not technically retired just yet. Although taking care of him is a job in itself! I'm honored that you remember me from other threads though.

                                                    1. re: coll

                                                      I do remember you from when I was a *lurker* because you had posted about your extensive knowledge regarding the beef/cattle industry. I found that impressive.

                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                        Oh thanks, I had the privilege to work with two "old time" meat guys at different jobs and when they saw I was interested, they took me under their respective wings. I like to think I am keeping some old gems of knowledge alive, although there are a few here that know a lot more than me! For some reason, it's very "romantic" to me (for want of a better word!)And it seems guys that were in the meat business back then were all real characters! Part of the attraction I guess.

                                                        1. re: coll

                                                          Every aspect of food production is interesting. Good for you for having the brains to learn about all of that.

                                            3. re: MamasCooking

                                              It's not the number of course FOR ME it is more in the intent this is a casual having people over for dinner...something I could do any day of the week. A dinner party requires effort in MY opinion.

                                              Is that enough "do tell"

                                              1. re: LaLa

                                                I requires effort, that is a very good description!

                                                1. re: LaLa

                                                  Effort is putting it mildly:) These days I am usually a guest. That is just how things have evolved and I like it this way:)

                                          2. re: zackly

                                            Maybe it's that women now typically work outside the home. In the 60's they were still at home, for the most part.

                                            1. re: Querencia

                                              I don't have a clue what that means. Well, unless it's a single household. Two people cooking together in the kitchen can turn out a good meal quite easily.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                And get the table set and the home ready for guests.

                                                1. re: Candy

                                                  Which I've done even a day in advance :) And covered the table with a sheet!

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    But not all husbands will help! I have the short end of the stick there, unfortunately. I love "dinner parties" or whatever other name one wants to give. Anything is possible as long as you give yourself three or four (mostly partial)days to prepare, at least that's what I find. For some people that is too much, I know. But for me, well it hasn't stopped me yet ;-)

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        One person can swing it, if they really want to. Why put the blame on your poor spouse? I never faulted mine, it was always my idea to have the silly party in the first place!

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          We both work so of my husband can do the heavy cleaning while I prep food things go much more smoothly

                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                            That's kinda how it works for us. And Bob is great about doing all/lots of the cleanup as I'm cooking.

                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                    Yes but if both people work, putting together a good dinner is still difficult. Back in the day when it was more typical for women to not work outside the home, they had all day to prepare for a dinner party.

                                                    I also think the changes in the work environment contribute too. Less and less people work a typical 9-5, home by 530 or 6 sort of job. Also there's a lot less "have the boss and the mrs. over for dinner" type of entertaining as well.

                                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                                      When we were working and raising kids, "dinner parties" were generally on Saturday evening.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        For me at least, Saturdays are filled with errands, laundry, chores, etc etc. Not a ton of time to do them during the week between long work hours and a longish commute (about 30 minutes each way). I know for me at least (we don't have kids), getting the house ready and making a few things for our Super Bowl party was exhausting... I can't imagine doing that on a regular basis and I bet most people these days can't.

                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                          my MerMer and Poppa remember growing up with "help" being in the house even though they both were not from particularly affluant homes .. both told stories of parties.. My Mom though remebers her parents entertaining and her mother worked outside the home ( very odd amongst her friends) My parenst entertain often..both big parties of 40-60 and dinner from 6-12 btoh work outside the home....Some people play golf...some go to vegas,,, my parents entertain for fun...

                                                          1. re: girloftheworld

                                                            That's a perfect description...to entertain for fun! It's a hobby as much as anything. If you don't enjoy it, no reason to do it.

                                                            1. re: girloftheworld

                                                              Agree with coll that's a great way to describe it. None of them are wrong. We also entertain for the fun of gathering our friends around the table and eating whatever and however. (Been know to put out a roll of paper towels if it's ribs! And that's still a dinner party to us.)

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                Ina Garten sort of represents casual elegance to me. She knows how to set a lovely table and she of course is a *fabulous* cook.However she always places emphasis on what you are expressing c oliver, the gathering of friends, family to *break bread* together and the whole *food is love* philosophy.

                                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                  And if that ain't a dinner party, then I don't know what is.

                                                2. I suppose it depends upon your peer group.

                                                  It is getting more rare amongst my friends. We are all 50 plus professionals- mostly in private practice medical and law. It seems like we are always going to charity auction events and we are being invited to sit at a "group table". I am actually going to one tonight, instead of going to someone's house for a dinner party.

                                                  Parties at someone's home for certain occasions are more frequent ( oscar night, Super Bowl, Olympics, political events, etc). The standard "dinner party" for 4 to 8 is getting rare with us.