After Sunday's review of Brunch Is Hell, which advocates a dinner party renaissance but with a more relaxed vibe, Etiquetteer got to thinking about how That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much puts together a Poverty Pasta Dinner. Etiquetteer first suggested this type of dinner party many years ago, but it's worth detailing the specifics now:
- Pick an evening (weeknight or weekend) that works on your calendar.
- Send an email invitation (bcc: everyone to prevent an email spiral needlessly involving those who decline) to an appropriate list that should generate at least two dinner guests but no more than seven - about 14 people. Include an R.s.v.p. date five days before the dinner date, and remind everyone that you'll assign ingredients to the final list of attendees.
- Remind non-respondents the day before the deadline that they need to respond.
- Three days before the dinner, assign ingredients to attendees: pasta, sauce, garlic bread, cheese, red wine. If there are enough people, add salad*, dessert*, and more red wine. (There can always be more red wine, no matter how many are coming.)
- Be sure to have backup ingredients in case someone forgets. You can't have a Poverty Pasta without any pasta!
- People will R.s.v.p. right up to the dinner hour. Assign them red wine.
- The night before, put a fresh tablecloth on the table, set out silverware, tumblers, and napkins. Set out necessary equipment in the kitchen: pasta pot, bread baskets (line with paper towels), cookie sheet for garlic bread, corkscrew, small bowls for cheese, water pitcher, and dinner plates.
- On the night of the dinner, fill the pasta pot with water and start it boiling as soon as you get home. Tidy public rooms.
- Remain calm while simultaneously answering the doorbell, texting directions to a lost guest, and opening the first bottle of red wine.
- As guests assemble, make sure everyone knows where the wineglasses are to fill their own, and draft a guest to fill the tumblers with water.
- Remind guests reluctant to drink red wine out of champagne flutes when your birthday is.**
- Receive ingredients and prepare dinner. Wait to put the pasta in the water until all guests have arrived.
- Guests serve themselves when dinner is ready. Open seating (placecards at such a casual event would not be Perfectly Proper), but couples should avoid sitting together.
- When all are seated, make the traditional Poverty Pasta toast: "To Camaraderie and Thrift!"
- Keep an eye on who might need more ice water or wine and pass appropriate vessels as necessary.
- Encourage seconds if there's pasta left in the pot; you don't want all those leftovers.
- When it looks like all eating has ceased, begin clearing plates. This will prompt others to assist; don't discourage them.
- As conversation winds down, bid guests farewell.
- Roll up sleeves and begin washing dishes. (This step may precede #16 if guests linger too long.)
And that's it! Give it a shot if you need to inject some novelty (or economy) into your social life.
*The addition of salad or dessert automatically upgrades Poverty Pasta to Gentility Pasta.
**Not really. That is NOT Perfectly Proper.