There has been a gradual food revolution in America over the last 40 years. Entertaining at home has evolved. What used to revolve around a couple of kinds of events like holiday dinners, barbecues, and cocktail parties has become the great dinner party. My grandmother was a wonderful cook and she made warm family dinners on Sundays and holidays, but I don't ever remember her having a dinner party for no other reason but to have over a group of friends. Not an option. So, what's different now? And how did we become such discerning cooks and entertainers?
A couple of things changed really. Cooking became popular! It became trendy. Then it just became lifestyle. Julia Child kicked it off with the concept that you can cook "restaurant" at home. Alice Waters let us make it simple and very fresh. Voila, the food "industrial complex" is born. We are a nation that takes cooking classes from star chefs, invests in dozens of cookbooks, watches hours of the Food Network, and spend our evenings interpreting top recipes for our friends. (My mother's favorite, sit-down theme dinners for 12.)
The second thing that changed was the concept of what comprised family. If you have moved away from home (like myself) and can't be at every family dinner, your friendships, which can span dozens of years, become the new family dinner.
I became so much more aware of this recently. Actually, my friends made the point very clear and it became the idea about how even in economically challenging times the dinner party evolves again. They made the suggestion that rather than ever cut back on our dinners , we all contribute in one way or another, wines, liquor, even cash, pooled. Not that we didn't contribute before, its just more purposeful. Its about maintaining the time together.
So I did just what the great American cook would do: I made panini appetizers from Harry's Bar in Venice, veal osso buco by Tyler Florence and blackberry mousse right out of the Silver Palate Cookbook. Sound familar? Yes, once again it was shock and awe!