To tide you over until our next post (which has been delayed by illness), here is some sagacious advice on hosting a dinner party, much of which is still relevant today:

'Let the number of guests never exceed twelve, so that the conversation may be general;

'Let them be chosen with different occupations but similar tastes, and with such points of contact that the odious formalities of introduction can be dispensed with;

'Let the dining-room be well-lighted, the cloth impeccably white, and the atmosphere maintained at a temperature of from sixty to seventy degrees;

'Let the men be witty without being too pretentious, and the women charming without being too coquettish;

'Let the dishes be few in number, but exquisitely choice, and the wines of the first quality, each in its class;

'Let the service of the former proceed from the most substantial to the lightest, and of the latter, from the mildest to the most perfumed;

'Let the progress of the meal be slow, for dinner is the last business of the day; and let guests conduct themselves like travellers due to reach their destination together;

'Let the coffee be piping hot, and the liqueurs chosen by a connoisseur;

'Let the drawing-room be large enough to allow a game at cards to be arranged for those who cannot do without, yet still leave space for postprandial conversations;

“Let the guests be detained by the charms of the company and sustained by the hope that the evening will not pass without some further pleasure;

'Let the tea should be not too strong, the toast artistically buttered, and the punch mixed with proper care;

'Let retirement begin not earlier than eleven o’clock, but by midnight let everyone be in bed.'

Whoever has been present at a meal fulfilling all these conditions may claim to have witnessed his own apotheosis; and for each of them which is forgotten or ignored, the guests will suffer a proportionate decrease of pleasure.

(Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, Penguin Classics translation by Anne Drayton, p. 166)

 


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