Set­ting the Ta­ble

Sharp - - EDITOR’S LETTER - PETER SALTS­MAN Ed­i­tor-in-chief

ONE EVENING THIS FALL — the first truly cold night of the sea­son — my part­ner, Chloe, and I in­vited some old friends over to our place for din­ner. We spent the day de­vis­ing a menu, plan­ning a playlist, and buy­ing cheese and wine. By the time our guests knocked on the door, soup was sim­mer­ing on the stove and veg­eta­bles were roast­ing in the oven — suf­fi­ciently wel­com­ing smells to ar­rive to, we were as­sured.

What fol­lowed was an evening of laugh­ter and good con­ver­sa­tion, the kind that comes when there’s al­most too much catch­ing up to do. It was all the things a din­ner party should be: fun, in­ti­mate, and mem­o­rable. But as we cleared the empty ta­ble af­ter­wards, ex­hausted in the early hours of the morn­ing, we talked about just how sadly novel it felt.

It turns out we are the kind of peo­ple who al­ways think we’re en­ter­tain­ing, when in fact it’s an ex­ceed­ingly rare oc­cur­rence. My guess is that most of us are like that. Life is busy. We work hard, see our friends when we can, and re­treat to the com­forts of Net­flix and a glass of Scotch at the end of the week. Or we go out — and we love to go out — be­cause the ef­fort of hav­ing peo­ple over seems so daunt­ing.

But as the weather changes and the hol­i­days ap­proach, I’ve been think­ing more and more about what it means to have peo­ple over — to in­vite friends and strangers into your own space, and cook for them, and talk with­out the noise of the out­side world. It seems to me that it’s the clos­est you can get to the peo­ple you care about — and as a re­sult, vi­tal to the very act of be­ing hu­man. (Maybe that’s why, sub­con­sciously, this is­sue in­cludes a fea­ture on hol­i­day party looks, and life ad­vice from the chef and con­sum­mate host Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi.) This sea­son, I’ve re­solved to do more of it.

Much like we talk about per­sonal style when it comes to fash­ion, host­ing re­quires an el­e­ment of your­self laid bare. You can shape a menu to your am­bi­tions, cu­rate a wine list to your tastes and trav­els, in­vite a guest list from your wide-rang­ing net­work.

You can also do none of those things, so long as the sen­ti­ment is there. Prepa­ra­tion and fancy cook­ing can make for an ex­cel­lent night, but really, it’s worth seiz­ing any op­por­tu­nity to wel­come peo­ple into your home for a bite, a drink and a laugh. The week af­ter our elab­o­rate din­ner party, we had a cou­ple of close friends over for beer and ta­cos — the kind as­sem­bled with a kit from the gro­cery store. And frankly, it was pretty great, too.

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