The Big Dinners Project
My mum said that when she and my Dad had their first house together there was rarely a weekend that went past when they didn't have people over for dinner. Before Facebook and Instagram and the incessantly long WhatsApp voice notes I insist on leaving and all the devices and ways and means of being connected that we have today, my parents sat down with some simple food and a bottle of wine and good friends every single week. Now, I don't like to shit all over my generation, I think we get enough stick for being lazy, glued to our phones, obsessed with avocados and swiping left on any minor irritation, but personally, I felt like I hadn't been investing the time and attention that my relationships deserve. And thinking about it, that probably was because the sense of being connected all the time had diminished the impetus to actually make a proper effort with people I love, rather than just see them when someone else arranged drinks and I tagged them in the occasional meme.
I heard this quote the other day: 'bring more friendship to your romances and more romance to your friendships'. It's cliched, I kind of wince when I say it, but something really resonated with me. I want to make the effort. I want to catch up properly. I want to hear about how your Mum is and that weird guy in your office and that great pair of trousers you got in the sale. I don't want to be the bad boyfriend that rarely replies to your messages and only sees you when it suits them. And so, in a conversation early this year, when I was justifying the need for yet another set of vintage side plates, my boyfriend and I set ourselves a project: one big dinner, once a month. It doesn't sound like much, but with conflicting schedules and the need to make this manageable, it's one that I'm so enjoying so far. I want this little home that we've created in our tiny over-priced two bed with the rental furniture and the tea stained kitchen workshops and the scuff marks on the walls to be lived and loved in. I want a mix of people from every juncture of our lives to meet each other. I want people around and photographs taken here and drinks spilt and laughs had and memories made here. And I want to write about them a little too, it's probably not interesting for anyone but me, but it's a nice way to reflect and remember, and perhaps see if our hosting skills improve along the way.
So here's what happened at Big Dinner, number one:
So perhaps number one was actually a bit of a cheat, because it was my birthday. But even so, I made a list and we went down to the supermarket in the rain and piled everything in the trolley and wondered whether we should get another bag of crisps, just in case. And she, my best friend Al, arrived four hours early like the angel she is, laden with a fold-out table, two extra chairs, a set of champagne flutes and six extra serving dishes. She mixed marinades and scored sheets of puff pastry and caramelised Chantennay carrots and had trays in and out of the oven in the blink of an eyes. She diced onion and toasted flaked almonds and dressed salads so beautifully and so calmly that after about an hour I was duly dismissed from the kitchen so I could wash my hair and calm down a bit before guests arrived.
And the long and short of it was:
10 of us: Me. One boyfriend (mine). Two other boyfriends (not mine). Three friends from my school, one friend from his. One brother and his best friend.
We ate: Crisps. Dips. 3 tarts: one tomato, basil and ricotta, one sweet potato and goats cheese, one mushroom, hazelnut and honey glazed carrot. 3 big salads: one green bean, sesame and orange, one roasted beetroot, butternut squash and feta, one cauliflower, almonds and spinach. Guinness cake.
We drank: Prosecco. Espresso martinis. Pisco sours.
Misc: A lot of chat. A lot of laughing. A lot of me shushing people when it got too loud, for the neighbours' sake. 70s music. Jumpsuits. Game of telegrams, or three. Tray of shortbread biscuits. A little bit of bad dancing. Speaking in bad French accents. Trying to solve the murder of Dr. Disco. Photos taken on a Polaroid camera.
Everyone got buses and Ubers home at about 2.30am. And a good time was had by all (I hope).