Salt 101

No, I Don't Have Cheese Knives: The Art of the Mid-Twenties Dinner Party

It was a summer evening in New York and he was tall, dark, and handsome, just like I’d always imagined he’d be…

Well it wasn’t.

And he wasn’t.

Not exactly.

It was July, really rather rainy, and the aforementioned “Prince Charming” only lived in the depths of my imagination. But don’t most stories about an unforgettably romantic night start out that way and end with a Mia Thermopolis-style, foot-popping kiss?

In actuality, this story is about a different kind of romance all together…

The kind involving friends, food, and a “just fine” tablescape. This is a tale of the pure, simple, Pinterest-imperfect romance of hosting a 27-year-old dinner party. A font of love that’s often forgotten by Netflix rom coms, though with the right menu (and charcuterie platter), one that’s just as filling and cheesy as the rest of its Matthew McConaughey-clad genre.

To disclaim the forthcoming: I love hosting dinner parties. Large. Small. With place settings that match each of the seven courses. On the floor with paper plates that sag under the weight of lasagna. At home in New York. At home in London. At home in DC. On an airplane with makeshift packaged food combinations that you concoct with the stranger-turned-friend in seat 13B. Anytime. Anywhere. Fit with a theme and costumes after a good day or frustrated tears that turn to laughing ones after a hard one.

BUT this story isn’t about my love for just any soirée. I’m talking about the very unique art of the Mid-Twenties Dinner Party.

Disclaimer: If you *do* end up wanting cheese knives after reading this article, I succumbed to temptation and just bought these...

The Mid-Twenties dinner is unlike any other—

  1. You have all the utensils to set the kind of table that Emily Post would be proud of…though the salad forks you bought with your first grown up paycheck are but distant relatives of the IKEA knives from your college set. Both have learned to coexist on your blended family of a fold out table.
  2. You keep aesthetic cookbooks propped up at angles on your kitchen counter, but instead planned your menu around 5 of the 500 TikTok recipes that you have in your saved folder. So, you call your papaya salad, Yorkshire pudding, miso cod, and penne alla vodka spread a “creative international fusion experience.”
  3. You Googled how to pair wine, promptly forgot what you read, and decided that red goes with meat and white goes with fish and that’s progress because it’s no longer coming out of a bag and into a plastic cup.
  4. You have dessert plates but don’t have enough room for them in the dishwasher, so 6 forks and the cake tin squeezed in the middle of the table will do just fine.
  5. You love dressing up but when a friend says that she’s coming straight from pilates so will be in leggings, you promptly step out of your I Love Lucy heels and into slippers.
  6. You make more money than you did at 20 but less than your parents did at 40, so you can afford to get the fresh produce at the farmer’s market but will still journey to Trader Joe’s for the rest of your ingredients even though Whole Foods is significantly closer.
  7. You have a charcuterie board, but the prosciutto rosettes look more like you tried to fold a fitted sheet, only some of the cheeses are tempered, and cheese knives are overrated so butter knives will do…and no one cares a single bit.
  8. You put olives out on the table but forgot a pit bowl and toothpicks. That’s what fingers are for, right?
  9. You are grown up enough to own cloth napkins but not old enough to have a corresponding set of napkin rings, so you get creative with bangles that you haven’t worn since high school.
  10. And you invited 5 people but 8 showed up, so around your dinner table is a mix of step stools and a riveting game of musical chairs.

The incomparable romance of a dinner party in your mid-twenties lives in how perfectly “mid” it is.

You aren’t eating dollar slice covered in garlic powder straight from the box anymore, but you also see no need for fine china or furrowed brow elbow placements.

In your mid-twenties, your dinner parties are unapologetic and have nothing to prove.

You may have diligently planned the timing of each dish in your notes app that morning, but odds are you got distracted half a bottle of wine deep in full bodied gossip and forgot about the salmon. It’s cold now and no one cares.

Being in your mid-twenties means mastering the art of not romanticizing the messiness of 22 and not harping on the performance of “adulthood,” but rather crushing on the “singing in the kitchen, dessert before dinner, “yes, everyone can help with the dishes,” “no, don’t worry about the stain,” dance to Taylor Swift between courses-ness” of all of this.

So, maybe this love isn’t “tall, dark, and handsome as I always imagined he’d be,” but damn isn’t it romantic to be 27 with the loves of your life cry-laughing about absolutely nothing on the kitchen floor?