It’s Friday evening. I am dressed to the teeth, ready to enjoy a formal elegant dinner in a private home. One of the women in the group won the ticket for a dinner for six at a private home at a charitable event and chose five people of her liking to appear in this charade dinner. I was one of them.
In the casual Californian atmosphere, I am already wondering how this formal dinner will be conceived, nobody organizes formal and sitting down dinners anymore, especially in California. For this occasion, the wife is the chef, the husband is the waiter dressed in total black with a white napkins neatly folded over his right arm, playing the part to the letter. They are travelers, I wonder if they learned that in Italy?
The dinner table is elegantly made in a 1930s style: crystal glasses, silver tableware, embroidered tablecloth and fabric napkins. I counted the plates and there are six place sets, but we are eight counting the hosts. “There is something wrong with this picture” I am starting to ask myself. I didn’t know the people offering the dinner as an action item are not supposed to sit down with the guests.
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 is gone… and so is the mind of some of the guests….
It took only a few bubbles to lose composure. Oh dear, non-senses are already spoken and we are only at the hors-d’oeuvres. What is it going to happen until the end of the dinner?
The hosts invite us to sit down. I didn’t know anyone in the group, except the lady who invited me 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 my native Italy, this will never happen.
Seven courses are waiting to be consumed. I glanced in the kitchen, the portions are very small, but some of the women felt intimidated, when they heard about several courses coming and felt 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. How do we explain so many overweight people in our society? Perhaps, the large portions eaten mindlessly are the fault. The women in the group were no small examples either.
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 to use the flatware. Clearly, she eats with plastics everyday.
Then, like in a comedy 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, perhaps a copy. 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, I thought.
(Pumpkin Photo: BHG)
A cute starter of small baked pumpkin filled with mozzarella cheese open the banquet and libations. The woman next to my left, after the first course, unravels the layers of her clothes. She would have taken off her bra if she could have, she admitted.
I asked her what she does when she eats in restaurants, but I received no answer.
I am envisioning this dinner as the same version of the funny film Hollywood Party with Peter Seller. I don’t know if I am amused or disgusted. I cannot get up and leave. I am beyond being offended already, so I observed in silence, thinking of what other mishaps I am in for.
The highlight of the dinner is the changing of wines with each course. Strange as it sounds, I like this old fashion way of pairing wines with food. Those women, not being wine connoisseurs, can only flash heat waves on their skin, with increasing bawdy attitude and loud talking. To think they started the conversation in a softly and lady-like manners. What happened to their initial gentleness?
In the next scene, one woman tips over the wine glass full of white wine over the embroidered tablecloth and another one pins 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 are having a dessert and questioned where did the rest of the courses go. They expected to see a 6 course dinner since this affair was won at an action. (sorbet photo: http://www.myhobbies.com)
The conversation is boring, I am a spectator in pain and amused at the same time. Dinner was prepared in a simple way, even though seven courses sounded heavy and complicated, but it was not. 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!” as some of the women did.
(Chicken photo: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/roasted-chicken-with-sausage-stuffing)
This comedy is winding down with the doggy bag shocker scene. You heard it right. A few of these “classy women” are asking for a doggy bag for their leftovers. Clearly they have 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 amusement 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 sitting down dinner party, never serve more than four courses. Not a good idea to keep guests prisoners attached to the chairs, forced to listen to unpleasant shallow people.
3. Wines do not need to be paired with each course. Find one red wine for meat and one white wine for fish and vegetables, or find one that can be served interchangeably with all the food and stay only with those two choices.
4. Offer well tasted and liked recipes by previous guests in previous parties; offer food in the right quantity to avoid the “doggy bag” situation. No more than 1500 calories should be served all together through the entire dinner.
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. Make sure there is fresh air circulating through the dinnertime.
To me, breaking bread with people is an honor, having good manners at the table shows respect towards the hosts, the food so well prepared and the guests.
If I were a TV producer, I would have turned this dinner into a funny comedy, but I hope to have amused you for now. 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. Vogue Italy magazine and many prominent publications in California featured her work. 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 Red-A Voyage Into Colors is about how colors affect us in life. Get your copy on