Salt 101

The Art of Throwing a Really Bad Dinner Party

Dear 4:45am Waking, Fancy Detergent Using, Chia Seed Pudding Eating Overachiever who Thinks January is a “Month” Like Any Other—I hope you step on a lego on your way to SoulCycle. Because the truth is, January is not “just a month.” It’s a war zone that one must suit up and bravely endure. It felt like it was 612 days long, the weather was moodier than a premenstrual high schooler and every single social feed felt like an endless scroll of audition videos for the 2023 season of the “One-Upping Olympics.”

Full disclosure: sometimes…I’m part of the problem *it’s me* I am in the hot and heavy honeymoon stage of a new relationship with bone broth which has resulted in me needing to post about it with the frequency of a newlywed who just got a puppy, had a baby, and got politically-incorrect braids in the Caribbean, and for my small small role in this social media maelstrom, I sincerely apologize.

The reality is that my Notion Board will never look like that, I will never regularly remember to use retinol—taking my makeup off at the end of the day is victory enough, I have a new puppy and am trying to build a company, so my “routines” are more jello than concrete, and I’m pretty sure that the part of my brain that should remember to drink 8 glasses of water is too busy holding on to every rumor about Taylor Swift’s dating history, and frankly, I’m okay with that.

The endless pressure to be better than you were a month ago is exhausting, debilitating, and honestly a little judgy because you know what, “December you” was pretty damn cool too. She survived the entirety of 2022, and the first 4 pages of the Moleskine notebook that you got for Christmas where you mapped out “who 2023 you is going to be”  were written while high on holiday cookie frosting and tinsel. At least three of those pages were probably wildly unrealistic, detached from your personal reality and more in line with that of one of those “I wear neutral workout sets and never have sweat stains” girls on TikTok. And that last page? Well, you still have 11 more months to bring those goals to life, but you didn’t “muck up the whole year” by eating half a batch of cookies over your kitchen counter while watching Vampire Diaries even though you said you would finally attack your “What I’m *Supposed* to Watch” list this year.

At the end of the day. It's just not that deep. Any of it.

Another thing that’s not that deep?

Dinner parties. Having people over. The art of entertaining. (I know, shocking, coming from me!)

Like every other art form, entertaining comes in an assortment of styles.

I love tablescapes, matching my plates to each course, having taper candles that perfectly contrast my placemats, hand painting menus, and having my makeup done and best dress on when I have friends spontaneously round for dinner, but see, that’s “Renaissance hosting.”

The start of the year—a time when it’s cold but the holidays have passed so it’s not the kind of cold that smells like gingerbread, work is hard, the days are dark, and you just endured a month that left you feeling sore, depleted, and full body exhausted, means that we (yes, all of us, collectively) can progress to our “surrealist” or “impressionist” hosting eras for a little while.

These are the months when you probably need to see your friends more than ever to get out of the mid-winter slump, but now is also probably the time that you feel like you have absolutely nothing left to give.

Tips for throwing a really sh*tty dinner party

It may be Emily Post’s nightmare, but she’s not here and at least you get to see your friends…and watch Vampire Diaries while eating cookies over the kitchen counter together.

Everyone should be wearing their “bodega clothes.”

In New York, the space between your apartment and the nearest deli is, by law, still considered your home. It is the space that you can wander around freely in your high school swim team’s sweats, a Starface pimple patch, slippers, and toothpaste on your chin because—if you run into anyone in that radius, they simply signed up to be your roommate (they just didn’t know it at the time…read the fine print, kids). The clothes that you wear within these boundaries are your coziest and most threadbare. You will be wearing them, and everyone that comes round should be invited to wear theirs as well.

Alternatively, get all of your friends a pair of Swoveralls for absolutely no occasion at all except for the fact that you love them and they should get a prize for surviving January. I have this pair and am…going to get married in them when someone finally agrees to tolerate me for life.

We are not above Trader Joes.

We are Trader Hoes. Yes, in December you did make a 9 hour braised short rib that then became the most glorious ragu. It deserved a Nobel Prize. Your friends experienced it, loved it, cherished it, but will *not* be having it tonight. Tonight, go through the shelf of cans that you hoard like the apocalypse is nigh and finally open them. Go to your freezer. Defrost the graveyard of random boxes that live in the back. The reality is that when everything is laid out, tinned fish (peep my favorites!), assorted beans, artichokes, hearts of palm, a chickpea salad, and whatever bits you keep in the “emergency section” of your freezer next to the baking soda and cookie dough from the times of yore actually come together to make a pretty damn sexy spread.

*If* you do want to cook…try quote, unquote “cooking.”

All of those phrases that every magazine and its mother finds buzzy—one pot, one sheet, no fuss, no chop, pantry staples, no bake—use ‘em! They will be your saving grace. Grab that massive sheet pan that you keep in the oven because it won’t fit anywhere else and chuck chicken, sausages, veg, mushrooms, and absolutely anything else on it. Cover it all in EVOO, herbs, spices, and a dream, and roast it like Justin Bieber on Comedy Central. For more ideas, check out these 15 recipes from The Kitchn.

Pretend like everyone, every *clap* single *clap* person *clap* you know, all at once, quit their jobs.

They have none. No job. Unemployed. Funemployed, woohoo! Check all work talk at the door. Odds are that Serena’s boss is still a witch. Blair is still hemming and hawing about whether to confront that one colleague about “stealing her account.” Vanessa is going to cry wolf about quitting…again. And Lily doesn’t want to talk about pivot 106 of her new startup. It’s only February and everyone’s already too tired from living it to talk about it. Chat about fun things—a new crush, an old show, whether different kinds of birds tweet and caw in different accents, if the Brad, Jen, Angelina drama will be featured on our kids’ History class syllabi, TikTok drama featuring high school online dancers—or whip out a game.

Don't Swiffer.

No one cares as much as you do. They never will. No one’s licking the floor...I hope. Make sure you have toilet paper in the loo, but you don't need to do a full clean. When you go to a friend's house and it looks “lived in” it just makes you feel better about your own, right? The little pink ring around the water in the toilet will not stop anyone from peeing. Let it go.

Ditch the rules.

When it comes to a “dinner party dinner party,” I get the whole—you invited your guests, they shouldn't have to do any work—thing, but for a crappy dinner party, ditch the rules. Let ‘em. It makes everything move faster and then you can return to all being globs on the sofa sooner. Teamwork makes the dream work, baby! (To take it one step further, give the fine china a day off. Today is not the day to break out the “must be hand washed with a scrap of Victorian silk” wedding plates. Let cleanup be just one iota easier and go disposable…but make it eco. I buy these plates in bulk for occasions such as this. They’re compostable, eco-conscious, not too expensive, and also look great!)

Wine is wine.

At the end of the day (and a very hard month), wine is wine. For this dinner party, no need to pair it, sip it, serve it in the “right glass” or at the “right temperature.” Two buck chuck in a mason jar, cheap beer in a can, or one of those college girl drinks (think vodka-cran, rum and coke, well gin and tonic, or tequila orange juice) will do just fine, I promise.

Just *be*.

And finally, more than half of the American population eats the majority of their meals alone. This is just an excuse not to. A sh*tty dinner party isn’t an excuse to show off your hostessing skills or be on your best behavior. It’s a time to just be with your loved ones. If that means putting on a film, cuddling, and eating in silence while Julia Roberts delivers a speech about being “just a girl standing in front of a boy,” so be it. Hugh Grant is bumbling and hot and that always makes everything better.