Getmütlichkeit in Berlin, Entertaining in Autumn
To many, living in a bustling city-centre is something of a travesty. The crisp nature of the air isn’t defined by fresh purity, but a stark wetness with a slightly pungent odor of pollution. Sure, the whistling and humming of the subway drowns out the countryside’s natural score of cooing cows and birds in mid-flight, but to deny that it too, can offer a sense of intimacy, is a fallacy. Dining is seemingly a rather natural concept, pre-dating any modern world - the extravagant and decadent dinner parties of the Greeks and Romans are well documented and observed. Even their specific recipes and love of wine have stood the test of time. The innate beauty of a proper dinner party is the ability to provide, to sacrifice ones time and create an environment for individualized attention, something our world tends to be lacking in at dire moments.
Entertaining - well, that’s slightly different than a simple dinner. Some claim you either have the ability to entertain - or you don’t. You either have a keen eye for a good menu, the right soundtrack and the perfect guest-list - or you don’t. To place such incredulous expectations on the common homeowner (or flat dweller) is a disappointment. Social norms and cultural customs certainly are to be acknowledged at the table, but we mustn’t forget imagination and intimacy above all - two human concepts that everyone subscribes to. A proper dinner gathering levels the crowd, places you all on the same, human plane - and when done right, can create a night where hopes, dreams and even life’s biggest devastations can not only be discussed, but empathized with. A dinner party, right in your home, can create a sense of compassion and thus, a sense of humanity.
I. Choose the right people
This is the easiest decision to make. Keep the guest list between 4-6 people for close friends and family - and if you’re looking to invite more for a holiday or seasonal party - up to twenty is okay too. Just make sure you have the space to comfortably fit every single guest and enough different areas where private, separate conversations can organically transpire.
II. Select a menu based off the season & local agricultural trends
For autumn you are incredibly blessed to have hearty root vegetables at your finger tips. This means whatever you pick up at a local market will be relatively cheap and very fulfilling for each guest. Choose a variety of colors, shapes and sizes for an artistic array of healthy options. These will naturally need to cook longer, so make all preparations in the morning and throw it in the oven an hour or so before guests arrive. In Berlin, this will never be an issue with tons of platz markets and Markthalle Neun for more obscure ingredients. Hosting a dinner with an Asian flare? Dong Xuan is one place where every ingredient can be obtained easily in one afternoon.
III. Details, Details, Details
If you’ve designed a menu you’re proud of - why not transform it into a printable delicacy that’s accessible for each person? Grab a thick paper (16-point paper stock works best) and get creative. If you have great handwriting or calligraphy skills - use them. You can also provide a summary of the main ingredients on the back so when you hear that glorious question, “How did you make this? It’s incredible!” you will already have the answer right there, convenient and pocket-sized.
For more formal parties, a fixed seating arrangement is to be expected - and this is okay! However, for a casual gathering, skip the name cards and seating graph.
This is by far one of the most important steps to finish a dinner party, beside the menu of course. Candlelight is always a good idea and the more, the better. Try sticking to candles that are fragrance-free and choose different shades of the same color. Also, choosing candles of the same shape, but in varying heights will create depth and dimension across the landscape of the table.
Most hosts will take the job of making a “playlist” as a serious matter. Skip It. Forget the background noise - in the city you have enough of that already. Worried about the awkward moments of silence in between mouthfuls of food and awkward announcements? Don’t. Silence is quite under-appreciated. Instead of letting a Frank Sinatra lyric move any bad news or inappropriate statements to the wayside, try doing something new - actually respond.