With a constant flux of food-related books, TV shows and celebrity chefs bombarding us with the notion of how great cooking is, do we really need help when it comes to hosting a dinner party?
If the advice is from Corey Mintz, then yes. “Fed,” the author’s popular Toronto Star newspaper column, was born after he served former Gourmet magazine editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl a GLT—a guanciale, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Rule number one, Mintz writes: “When you really need to impress someone, choose the simplest thing and make it well.”
After 150 dinner parties, Mintz is well equipped to dish out advice authoritatively—without ever being pedantic—and with good humour. “If your friends are vegetarians make the meal vegetarian,” he writes. “If your friends are vegans, get new friends.”
With a thoughtful introduction by Sarah Polley (a friend of Mintz’s), lively illustrations by Steve Murray and several dinner party-appropriate recipes, the book is beautifully laid out in 10 chapters. Mintz covers everything from guest lists and seating arrangements to organizing grocery shopping lists and how to say goodbye. There’s even a lateness timetable: five minutes late? “Not worth mentioning.” Thirty minutes? “Expect your host to be upset, though he or she should not show it.”
Advice is often illustrated with witty anecdotes from Mintz’s past, including a Moroccan-themed dinner party prepared by a good friend who’d never tasted–or made–Moroccan food before. “This is like deciding to build a Lord of the Rings-themed bookshelf before learning to make a bookshelf,” he writes. “Doing things well should always take priority over fanciful ideas.”
And because this is a how-to guide for the digital age: Unless you’re a doctor on call, then no cellphones on the table please. And if you’re emailing a group of people, don’t hide the addresses in the bcc line: “When I receive an invitation with all the other guests in the bcc line,” writes Mintz, “I wonder if I’m being invited to the final scene in an Agatha Christie novel, where I’ll be one of 10 strangers, each with a plausible motive to have murdered Lord Snoothington.” Seasoned hosts will holler “hallelujah!” when Mintz touches upon common kitchen vexes, like the meddler: “Guests need to know that the kitchen is a workplace and that they should not get in the way.”
Most importantly, readers will want to strap on an apron—one that covers your upper body, Mintz suggests—and prepare a meal to share with friends.
Watch author Corey Mintz demonstrate five don’ts for dinner party guests: