I like to make resolutions come new year, and one of the things on my list for this year is to socialise more, especially in the context of having formal dinner parties at home. This type of dinner would work quite differently from our Indian system, so let us spend some time trying to understand it today.
For us, a dinner party at home does not often involve dressing formally and having a sit down dinner. Such dinners are popular, though the convenience of a buffet often makes that system more preferable. In the West, if you are invited to a formal dinner party at someone’s home, the dress code is specified, and, as a guest, you will need to make sure you take a token gift for the host. The gift could be a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, and the like.
These parties are always a dine-at-the-table affair. Although not always common, some hosts specify place mats to indicate the seating arrangements. Typically, the hosts sit at the opposite ends of the table and everybody else is placed in between. The table is pre-set with each guest’s silver (cutlery, plates & glasses) laid out in a particular fashion that complements the meal courses. The main plate being the center, the forks and the butter knife are placed on the left, while knives, spoons and glasses are placed to the right of the dinner plate. If you are the guest and are not sure about which fork to use for which course, the easiest thing to do is to start from the outside and work your way in as the courses are served.
At a very formal party, the dinner is served out in the kitchen. Which means that the food is plated up to look good and then brought to each individual guest once seated. As you can imagine, this requires servers for the entire duration of the meal. At most formal parties though, it is acceptable to have the dishes laid out on the table, and the food passed around for everyone. The hosts usually clear out the dishes and replace them as and when the dinner proceeds to the next course.