I was asked by a friend how life was going with Husband away for so long. Was I going out? Did I have a social life outside of family and the boys? Were people not inviting me out because I was solo? Hmm. Unless I’m crazy – and I’m sure there’s an argument for that sometimes – I wasn’t ‘not’ being invited out, it’s just that people in LA don’t have parties the way they do in London. It’s shocking, actually, to think that I, we, have been invited to a handful of dinner parties since we arrived back and that’s over two years ago.
I’m excluding anything related to school because a) I’d be the most popular girl in LA with four schools and also four sets of fundraising antennae aware of me, and b) if I started to define my social life by school events I’d have to kill myself. I think the lack of dinner parties is why I pour the first glass earlier and earlier these days – and Lord help me with day light savings going as it’s dark by 5. My idea of relaxing into a social setting seems to take shape when the boys have finished their work and have eaten, and my headmistress duties are completed. We don’t have screens during the week so the next few hours involves chats, playing and some music. Most nights also, quite honestly, include loud running games where the glass gets filled one more time! I honestly don’t go out for dinner but once a week and that’s almost always with family or girlfriends. My glass of wine, as sad as this sounds, has become representational of my social life after hours…only it’s at home, with the kids and in my schlumpy clothes.
LA women say they don’t have dinner parties because keeping up with the Jones’ is one step too far for them – it’s too much of an ordeal to do it ‘right’. I retort that in London there are some that can cook so well they could open a catering business, and have, and others who can shop really well for food. No one ever cares, especially after the first glass, and most take it in turns to host. A friend of mine in LA started a grub-club (her name ironically is Jones), where four or five families rotate the house and have dinner, usually en familie, once a month on a Saturday night. It’s the only consistent dinner party I’ve heard of and I’m not even invited!
Culturally there is a difference. I see it in the micro analysis of my American family vs Husband’s British one. We eat in 9.2 minutes here, and my British family dines. My Los Angelino family has dinner as a means to an end and woofs it down whilst my Brits cook together and take time over the meal and wine and dessert and wine. It reminds me of Thanksgiving where I cook all day and then the meal is over in less than ten minutes. My LA family are amazing at Sunday dinners because for us, it involves at least 20 people. We can throw a big meal together often and the chaos is brilliant. But it’s not a dining experience, or really ever about the preparation of food. We eat together so that we can be together.
LA dinner is had early; a typical reservation is 7:30. A British dinner reservation is never earlier than 8pm. That half hour is meaningful. To me, one is about eating early because it’s healthier and you can do something afterwards or get to bed earlier; the other is about the dining part of dinner, it is your evening. Dinner parties are always the times when you get to know your friends a bit better, you have chats about what’s going on in your life and in the world and you get more insight into your friends’ male counterparts as well.
It doesn’t have to be presented perfectly, it doesn’t have to be an evening that defines you as a cook, designer, house-maker or shopper. It can just be dinner; food shared with friends that are happy to be in your home.