ETQ

Dinner Party How To

Rules of Civility

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The informal dinner party requires an ever changing skill set combining the arts of entertaining and manners.

The informal dinner party requires an ever changing skill set combining the arts and sciencs of entertaining and manners. Unlike a cocktail party, in which scores of people may come and go throughout an evening, the informal dinner party requires your skills at preplanning, cooking and timing.

Begin with a number you are comfortable with. Four to six people offer achievable challenges. Once you?ve mastered the small, informal dinner party, think about expanding your guest list, but not before. If you have a friend or two who are more extroverted than not, invite them. With aplomb they engage people and have a natural ability to make all feel welcome. Then invite friends you want to introduce.

Deciding who to invite, just like knowing what to wear, is about context. What type of experience do you want to create? Why do you want to bring a particular group of people together? Friends who both love opera may seem like good choices for your list; if they can only discuss opera, they will act like insufferable bores. Some traits to keep in mind: are the people you are bringing together good conversationalists? Good listeners? Widely read? Well traveled?

There is no guarantee your list will prove successful; but if you know why you brought this particular group of people together, you will stand a great chance of keeping the flow of conversation at a steady pace when conversation lulls or topics become too heavy.

The informal dining party runs the gamut from buffet-style to three or four-course meals. Buffet-style may be a ?bring a dish to pass / pot luck? style or one in which you cook everything, mostly. A special table, or even the kitchen counter, is used to hold the serving dishes. Guests help themselves to food. There is also family-style dining, where guests pass the food between themselves. This style of dining was most popular among the Romans. Both buffet-style and family-style dinner parties allow for second helpings. Unless you are going to plate the entire meal from the kitchen and serve it to guests individually (or pay someone to do that for you), your guests will be serving themselves.

Whether you choose to cook most or all of the meal yourself, or purchase prepared foods, you will need to become adept at estimating food proportions, a topic addressed below.

Food stores in the U.S. join shops in London and Paris in the array of prepared foods one may purchase for consumption at a later time. In densely populated cities with small apartments, purchasing prepared foods may your best option. Your kitchen may be a hot plate. If you do want to cook, and have not, you might start off preparing just the appetizers. Or you may ask a trusted friend who knows how to cook to assist you. Don?t overdo things. Start small with success as your goal.

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