At this stage of life, when some people are putting deposits down on their first homes, others are completing PhDs, old friends are finding new lives overseas and the weddings and babies of school mates are filling up social media feeds like matrimony is going out of style (a thought: it is), it would seem a bit pitiful that the most adult thing I’ve done recently is host a dinner party.
But despite not yet being a homeowner, father, husband, world leading expert or international brave heart, I do feel like I’m making progress of the culinary and cultural kind.
In my burgeoning opinion on the subject, ‘entertaining’, something which has always been an interest of mine but something I’ve not always had the skills to do well, is a crucial part of ‘growing up’. It’s part of becoming an adult not just around the stove top, but also in regards to other, more important aspects of life like ideological exchange, social reciprocity and cultural eloquence.
That might all sound a bit stiff, but let me explain why I reckon hosting dinner parties is an important step into true adulthood.
Entertaining guests doesn’t need to cost you a fortune (as my slow cooked pork neck will attest). You can spend high or low and still manage to pull off a great soiree, so don’t think that hosting friends is a past time reserved only for the salaried. Anyone can do it – it just takes effort.
Taking the time to organise yourself and work on not just the food but also the mood is a really important part of dinner parties, and of life.
This manifests in what we know as ambiance – a decidedly adult thing to curate that takes considerable mindfulness to perfect. It involves selecting good music, setting a nice table and warming up a good quality outdoor heater, for those with an outdoor entertaining space. You do these things not only for your own satisfaction, but also for the enjoyment of the guests you’ve invited into your home. It’s an expression of kindness, generosity and service and a way of saying ‘I care about you’, ‘thank you for your friendship’ and/or many other such things. Dinner parties express gratitude.
But, as anyone who has ever cooked for friends will know, dinner parties don’t just stretch you before the fact. The time during dinner is equally as important and I’d argue that this is because it illustrates so much more than just your (amazing!) cooking skills.
In order to reach conversational flow at a dinner party, there needs to be a mutual investment in friendship that long precedes you all gathering around a table for a meal.
Friendships in your mid-twenties are not the fun pacts that they were a few years ago, but instead subsist on deep fondness, genuine support and authentic affection. These things take time to cultivate and the intimacy of a dinner party is an ideal incidental testing ground. They bring to the forefront the state of your relationships as a reflection of the efforts you are placing in those around you. A good dinner party is an indicator of healthy relationships.
It’s no secret that your mid-twenties are an intense period of life-altering decision making, with most areas of life seemingly unable to escape unaffected. From your career to personal relationships, finances to assets, housing to aesthetics and style and everything else in between, it’s an age where your juvenile sense of self is paired back and your true values begin to solidify right before your very eyes.
These values are what motivate and inform us as we begin to lay the foundations for our adult lives. Being in the company of people who either share and thus affirm your values, or challenge them with respect is an exercise in refinement: of your perspectives of the world, the way you express yourself and the reasoning you use to justify your opinions. Similarly, it is an opportunity to celebrate diversity in your circle of influence, especially if you don’t all want the same things in life. Dinner party conversation is rich and honest.
Lastly, I feel that it’s rare that a dinner party is held in isolation. More often than not they are a link in a chain of social events that bond a group of people together over a longer amount of time. Of course, there is no schedule per se, but in hosting a dinner party you are repaying your guests for their good deeds in the past whilst reserving a seat at the table in the future. Dinner parties give us excuses to host more dinner parties!
Some readers might be cringing at these thoughts, asking themselves, Why bother with all of these seemingly trivial bits and pieces when I can just ‘hang out’ with my friends instead? And I’d venture it’s not because I’m a weird kind of yuccie who thinks about things too much, but because as you get older you realise that it is in fact the little things in life that matter most and a dinner party is nothing more than lots of little things/efforts made in the hope that you’ll share mutual delight with those closest to you in an experience which brings you all sustenance.
Life is a dinner party. So eat up.
This post was written with support from Thermofilm.