It’s Friday evening, I am dressed to the teeth, ready to enjoy a formal elegant dinner in a private home. In the casual Californian atmosphere, I am already wondering how was this formal dinner conceived, nobody organizes formal and sitting down dinners anymore. As I was approaching a highly decorated home for Halloween, I was expecting to see a herd of children, but only a mature couple, husband and wife lived there.
For this occasion, the wife was the chef, the husband was the waiter dressed in total black with a white napkins neatly folded over his right arm, playing the part to the letter. Did he learn that in Italy?
The dinner table was elegantly made in a 1930s style, crystal glasses, silver tableware, embroidered tablecloth and fabric napkins. I counted the plates and there were six places set, but we were eight counting the hosts. There is something wrong with this picture, I started to ask myself. The small cup style champagne glasses really caught my eyes, so dainty, well etched, so different from today’s fluted glasses and so short, one sip and the champagne was gone. And so was the mind of some of the guests.
It took only a few bubbles to lose composure. Oh dear, non-senses were already being spoken and we were only at the hors-d’oeuvres, what was going to happen until the end of the dinner?
The hosts invited us to sit down and I soon noticed the missing keynote people, them, the hosts. The host offered this dinner for six at a charitable event. One of the women in the group won the ticket and chose five people of her liking to appear in this charade dinner. I didn’t know anyone in the group and was excited to meet new people, neither did the hosts know anyone. Apparently in this type of style dinner, the hosts cannot sit with the guests, only serve them.
I truly felt awkward being served by an older couple and not having the pleasure to converse with them at the table. In Italy, my native country this will never happen.
Seven courses were waiting to be consumed, mind you, the portions were very small, but some of the women felt intimidated, when they heard about several courses coming and fell stuffed before even trying them.
In one of the many forums I belong, it was said that seven courses is too much to offer, considering that people don’t eat that much any more, but then, how do we explain so many overweight people in our society? Yes, people do eat large quantities mindlessly. These women in the group were no small examples either.
(Shoe off from Carla Coulson.com)
Did I see a pair of shoes loose under the chair of the woman on my left? Oh my, this is really promising! The woman directly across from me, an artist, asked the hostess in which order she should have used the flatware. Clearly, she eats with plastics everyday.
Then, like in a film, I incredulously saw everyone turning the plates over to see the trademark and where the dishes came from. I tried to stop them by talking about the design in the front of the dishes, it seemed very much a John Sanderson’s design, neo-classic fretwork of the middle 1700s. Well, the two women on both sides of me, just came out with a simple “really?” and still looked at the back side of the dishes, the rest of the guests were in their own “cookie wonderland“. Hard to make conversation with shallow people.
After the first course, a starter of small baked pumpkin filled with mozzarella cheese, the woman next to my left, started to unravel some of her clothes layers. She would have taken off her bra, she admitted. I asked her what she does in restaurants, but I received no answer.
I was envisioning this dinner as the same version of the funny film Hollywood Party with Peter Seller. I don’t know if I was amused or disgusted. I could not get up and leave, I was beyond being offended already, so I observed in silence, thinking of it as a good subject for my blog.
The highlight of the dinner was the changing of wines with each course. Strange as it sounds, I like this old fashion way of pairing wines with food, but the women, not being wine connoisseurs, could only flash heat waves on their skin, with increasing bawdy attitude and loud talking. To think they all started the conversation in a softly and lady-like manners. What happened to their initial genteelness?
In the next scene, one woman tipped the wine glass full of white wine over the embroidered tablecloth and another one pinned her long hair up with a huge clip looking as she just came out of the shower. This disaster dinner is really getting good!
The palate cleanser arrived, a well-balanced peach sorbet. Oh yes, some of them thought we were having a dessert and questioned where did the rest of the courses go.
The conversation was boring, I was a spectator in pain and amused at the same time. Dinner was simply prepared, even though sounded heavy and complicated. It went on as the host planned it, I enjoyed every bite, appreciated the host’s culinary efforts and did not exclaim “no food for me for the next three days”. This movie was winding down with the doggy bag shocker scene. You heard it right. A few of these classy women asked for a doggy bag for their leftovers. Clearly they had mistaken a private home for a restaurant. Once people learn bad habits, they repeat them to nth power.
The women present at this dinner were not professional actresses, they just made their own funny and impromptu comedy. I would have liked to record it for my divertissement later.
1. Never go out to dinner with unknown people, unless you make an effort to get to know them before the event, which is not always possible.
2. If you are hosting a sit down dinner party, never serve more than four courses. Not a good idea to keep guests as prisoners attached to the chairs, forced to listen to unpleasant shallow people.
No more than 1500 calories should be served, all together through the entire dinner.
3. Wines do not need to be paired with each course. Find a red for meat and white for fish and vegetables, or find one that can be served interchangeably with all the food.
4. Offer food in the right quantity, previously tasted and appreciated to avoid the “doggy bag” situation.
5. If you can, distract guests from turning over the plates, with a talk on the special dishes designs, or table setting decorations.
Witty conversations are of great help in keeping the attention of guests and drive them to a more proper behavior.
6. Keep some windows open to recirculate fresh air.
There is so much to learn when sitting at a dinner table with people, I hope to have amused you.
To me, breaking bread with people is an honor, having good manners at the table shows respect towards the host, the guests and the food so prepared well. Ciao,
Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola has been a lifetime designer in fashion and interiors. Her extensive knowledge of colors and materials led her in both directions successfully.
She was featured on Vogue Italy as the guru of staging in the theatrical way. Among designing and remodeling homes, designing custom-made furniture and writing books, Valentina is now teaching etiquette, table manners, table setting and life style.
Her new book on the subject of colors is published. Red-A Voyage Into Colors in available here on this site on the Books Page and on