Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about entertaining among people of my generation and younger. My question was- is entertaining becoming an art of the past? In my experience, organizing social events at home has become much less popular in recent years (exception perhaps for my upstairs neighbor in Chicago who regularly hosted lively gatherings that ended with breakfast…) Here is an article I came across recently about home parties among millenials, and it does confirm that it’s becoming rarer and rarer for people to host parties at their home.
The reasons the author gives have much to do with expense, concerns over invite lists in the era of social media, dispersed geography, and the explosion of very specialized dietary patterns (I can vouch for the fact that cooking for a vegetarian, a low-carber, someone keeping kosher, and a lactose intolerant all at the same time presents some very real culinary challenges). These are all real obstacles that make entertaining harder.
While I’ve personally never been one for ragers and hard partying, I do love a great dinner party, and I think these too are waning in popularity. Alexandra Lange’s article in Gourmet is a lovely tribute to the (non-kid-friendly) dinner parties her mother used to throw, with great attention to ambiance, good food, and anything else that would make for a great opportunity to be with friends and make new friends.
The reasons she gives for the fading of dinner parties involve the lack of skills, the shift toward a more casual society, and the changing attitudes and expectations about domestic work.
These are all true, but I am going to venture to add a couple of things. I think there has been a shift away from community living in general, and inviting others to one’s home is perhaps considered to be a bit more of a violation of intimacy today than it once was. People don’t “stop by” anymore, and friends are more likely to gather in public spaces. This leads to more scheduling of activities, since activities don’t create themselves as much in our more isolated lives… which ironically in turn leads to even less casual socializing. Vicious cycle that is hard to break!
I also think that parenting has become more of a 24 hour job than it once was, and everything is supposed to be kid-centric. People are very hesitant to disrupt their children’s routines with a late night, and even more hesitant to take on a labor-intensive meal when there are kids to tend to. I do think, however, that one of the best ways to have a parent-friendly evening is to get together with other families and leave the kids to their own devices (not the electronic ones, that is…) It may get a little crazy at times, but it’s a real win win.
I also briefly participated in a great organization called Mealsharing, (www.mealsharing.com) which allows people to host and attend home dinners anywhere. The idea is that people who love home cooking can offer their table and their company to others who pay a simple fee for the food (taking the financial burden off the host). This also provides the opportunity for those who are traveling, new to a city, or who don’t have family around, to share a home cooked meal. Check it out!
So while I see all the challenges of entertaining, I think home hospitality is such an enriching and pleasurable part of life that it is worth the effort, even if it means buying the food already made or just serving hummus and chips! So invite your friends over, set the table, and enjoy the pleasures of eating at home with friends. (Just don’t let them wear high heels because they ruin hardwood floors!!) Cheers!