You should get your hands on a copy of How to Host a Dinner Party by Corey Mintz. It’s a quick read, with easy to understand tips on entertaining and a few recipes thrown in for good measure. I had never heard of Corey Mintz before I heard about this book, but now that I’ve read it, I’m eager for more.
Corey writes a weekly column for the Toronto Star called “Fed”, in which he hosts a dinner party each week for (presumably) interesting people, and then writes about it. Hosting a dinner party each week sounds exhausting to me, but these experience are what led him to write this book, and who better qualified than he?
Each chapter chronologically follows the planning of a dinner party, starting from having the proper table and inviting the most pleasing assortment of guests, to the proper way to give and receive thank-yous following the big event. One of the most useful aspects of this book is the fact that he speaks from both the perspective of the host and the guest; realistically, we will all be one or the other at some point in our lives.
As a married, relatively new home-owner, dinner parties are becoming something that I’m exposed to more and more. So when a book like this was brought to my attention, I was immediately interested. Not being part of a lot of formal dinner parties in my childhood, this book was extremely useful to me, because it highlighted things that may be obvious to others, but not myself. For example, when it comes to wine etiquette Mintz writes: “Know that you are under no moral obligation to serve the wine that your friends brought…”(p. 123).
What brings this book past the ‘useful’ mark and pushes into the enjoyable arena is Mintz’s voice. Hilarious comparisons and examples really bring the writing to life which is not an easy task in an instructional book. One my favorite sections is where he breaks down everyone into a particular kind of dinner guest, which includes: “The Talker”, “The Bore”, “The Helper”, “The Sad Sack”, “The Drunk”, and so on. Although this sounds oversimplified at first glance, its true and we all know it.
The cover of the book is misleading, it hints at the fact that the dinner party will be scientifically dissected, which it’s not in this book. Good manners, organizations tips and astute social observations make up the majority of the work, which lent itself to sitting down and reading it as a whole, rather than using it as a reference guide, which I don’t believe it was meant to be. I should also mention the fun drawings at each chapter heading. Drawings of the author with his guests in various stages of the evenings are the perfect partner to the light-hearted writing, and it sets the tone of each chapter wonderfully.
One last thing-you should read the acknowledgements in the back of the book. Because I’m involved in the Canadian publishing industry, this is something I do regardless, as it’s such a small world we inhabit and many of the names are familiar. However, i recommend everyone take a gander at it when they finish the book as Mintz’s true personality really shines through in his thank you’s.