Welcome to the first blog post on The Next Dinner Party. You’re at the same old blog, more or less, on which I have been posting since 2012. Back then I called my blog Yemen Em. Then it was The Dame in Spain. Most recently it was Em in Jerusalem. If I were to continue this theme here in my new city of Rabat, Morocco, the blog would maybe be “I, Rabat.” But as much as I like coming up with moderately clever blog titles, turns out changing the name of your blog every few years is what they call a no-no in the marketing world. (Not that I make any money of this blog). But still, I’m looking for a little continuity and so I’m done with the changing the name to reflect the city or country in which I live and I’m declaring the permanent name of this blog to be The Next Dinner Party.
What is The Next Dinner Party?
It’s more of a feeling than an actual plan. Although, I am more often than not, legit planning my next dinner party. It’s an inspired by Gabrielle Hamilton’s essay in the New York Times called “The Grown Up’s Table,” in which she writes:
“The dinner party now depends more than ever on having one frequently, offhandedly, with abandon. If there are only eight seats and you know a few are going to end up with someone who’s got his head down to check his phone every 20 minutes, or who will be drunk on red wine by the salad course, just think of next month. To know that there will always be, for you, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, a well-set table and a roast and a salad and still, always, the wine, is to know that you are always going to find along the way another perfect friend, and then yet another.”
This essay moves me. I’m in tears when I read it, and I read it often. Not that I’m always looking for the next thing. In fact, when I host dinner parties, I don’t want them to end. That bastard that gets up first and says they have an early morning, well, that always makes me sigh with sadness. Departing guests are Dominos, once one taps out, everyone follows, and I hate that. But that dinner guest who says, late in the evening, “let’s all play songs that moved us to tears in high school” (my FAVORITE party game) well, I will love that person forever.
Each dinner party that I host, I want to capture the perfect magic of delicious smells, great food, and conversation that flows as freely as the red wine, the after-dinner drink, and the espresso. One problem with all this is I truly love food and I love to cook so I’ve been known to become too upset over ravioli that spew out all their filling in the boiling water and then feel like no one could possibly have a good time now that they have to eat fillingless and therefore soulless ravioli. I’m working on this. And at the next dinner party, I’ll know I can’t leave a tray of ravioli in a warm kitchen covered with a dish towel because they’ll get melty. But see, there’s always a next time.
I live in a new place every few years because of my husband’s job as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. It’s an exciting way to live and I love our adventurous life, but it also means we’re fairly often the friendless newbies in an unknown city and this can be a bummer. There are always a few months before the arrival of our rustic wood and iron table from Madrid, our cast iron skillet, our Shun eight-inch chef knife, spices galore, Ikea wine glasses, platters that I will inevitably shatter, when our new digs do not feel like home. That is when I start to plan our first big dinner party with the new friends whom we’ve met from work, or through whatever bijillion sportsball leagues my husband joins, a local we are lucky enough to get to know, or whatever other well-traveled expats we’ve met. And when I look around the table at these people whom I didn’t even know a year before, I think wow, we’ve created this! We brought everyone here with the promise of good food and a good time, and I just want to do it over and over again. I know there’s that movie about a never-ending dinner party being hell, but that’s my idea of heaven. Maybe just someone else can do the dishes. (But not during the party! Don’t even think about getting up while there’s fun to be had and make everyone feel guilty about still having a good time while watching you do the dishes).
I blog about dinner parties, yes, but also travel, home décor, writing, and whatever else fills me with the excitement akin to planning, hosting, and remembering the perfect dinner party.
To The Next Dinner Party,