Omni Daily Crush: "Forking Fantastic! Put the Party Back in Dinner Party"

Fact: I fantasize daily about dinner parties. While taming chaos in my garden this weekend, I mentally arranged bouquets, lit candles, and welcomed guests who devoured feasts and warmed the night with stories and drunken laughter, their faces lit by a crackling fire in the imaginary outdoor fireplace.

It’s not a stretch to say that my desire for these sorts of gatherings--fed by shimmering memories of open-air feasts in places and with people I’ve loved--has been my visceral motivation for making our garden, which has consumed most of my non-work time for six years now. This summer, as so much of this sweaty work comes to fruition, we must pause in our labor to celebrate!

Complicating Fact: Dinner parties stress the hell out of me (or rather, they have in the past). The need to keep guests not only occupied, but entertained; the pressure for the food not just to be good, but all hot at the same time. I don’t enough time and energy to recreate anything Martha would endorse, but that hasn't stopped me from trying--and then wondering why I wasn't enjoying my own party.

Everyone deserves the happiness of sharing home-made dinner with friends--and relaxing enough to be truly present. In parties past, I’ve transcended the stress for some wonderful, wine-soaked moments, but I never actually had a blast at my own party until last New Year’s Eve. Seized by the spirit of Zora O’Neill and Tamara Reynolds’s Forking Fantastic! Put the Party Back in Dinner Party, I invited a few friends over for dinner, and when they all accepted, I suddenly realized I had 18 people (OK, one was a baby) coming, and I couldn’t get off work to start cooking until 3:30. Oh, and some were staying the weekend. And the bathrooms weren’t clean, because Amazon’s a busy place during the holidays.

I panicked briefly, then drew courage from Zora and Tamara’s down-to-earth, salty-tongued stories about parties gone wrong but still awesome, and drew from their genius strategies for whipping up not just amazing food, but actual fun for all involved. Infused with their spirit, I put my guests to work in the kitchen, and we got three courses plus dessert on the table by 8:00. We all felt proud of the results, and even more fantastic was the forking amazing feeling we got from participating in that essential human ritual of sharing food and time together.

For a taste of Zora and Tamara’s style, watch this montage of their Sunday Night Dinners (and don’t miss the Naked Chef cameo).

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Comments (4)

I have found that SOME people (like you and me) are stressed about having people over. We care too much about them having a good time that we forget to have a good time ourselves, right?

I have a rather uptight boyfriend, and when people come over to visit us, he's not a good entertainer. He'll yell "come in" from the couch and won't even stop what he's doing.

I think the good-host(ess) gene is just something you're born with or something you're not.

Posted by: Mike Lawson | Sunday February 21, 2010 at 8:12 PM

I went to my daughter's middle-school graduation with my camera and got some good pictures but I didn't see nor did I remember a single element of it. After that I went without the camera and enjoyed the pride and the wonderful warm feeling.

Parties are the same.

Call a restaurant you like and it is entirely possible that you can give them a menu, or they will help you select one, and have them do all the food for not a lot more than the food alone would cost you. You pick it up, arrange it how you like, and then the party is up to your basic joie d'vivre rather than your culinary, logistical, and freak-out-suppressing skills.

Posted by: Nolanimrod | Sunday February 28, 2010 at 1:46 PM


Thanks so much for this review! I was really psyched to read that you shed the unimportant baggage and just fed your friends- while working for Amazon over the holidays, no less! A Herculean feat; Gold Star to you.

Seriously, it isn't even the 'party' aspect that is the most important; it is cooking for yourself. Knowing what went into your food because you made it and sharing it with a few loved ones.

Viva Duck Fat!

Tamara Reynolds

Posted by: Tamara Reynolds | Tuesday March 2, 2010 at 6:29 AM

I hate the stress of having people over for dinner. I can't measure up to the best dinner parties I've been invited to, and it's an intimidating standard to live up to.

I try to remember what Julia Child said: Never apologize. Well, it's one thing to remember, and something else to internalize.

(Funny, when I'm working in the garden it feels more like a fugue state.)

Posted by: chuck b. | Wednesday April 21, 2010 at 9:12 PM

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