As the pandemic draws on, so does the daily-average of time spent hopping between a sinuous trails of screens, in an effort to reclaim some semblance of normality in an otherwise bonkers time.
You may be old enough now to put doubt to your mother’s fretful claims that too much screen-time will turn those circular peepers of yours into sharply-angled squares, however, her threats that pixelated entertainment will turn your brain into proverbial ‘mush’ is proving to have tangible clout.
One more invite to a virtual seminar and, in the pithy words of Violet Elizabeth Bott, “I’ll scream and scream and scream”. Don’t get me started on the soaring craze of the ‘Virtual Pub Quiz’ which has, frankly, become something of an epidemic in itself.
Nurturing nature’s very real need for human interaction, through our ability to connect virtually, has been a universally saving grace for many. Zoom is too COVID-19, what telegrams were too WWII. But if we’re spending our long, meandering days trying to find solace from the cataclysm in the refuge of a screen – most probably wearing the same track pants that have adorned your hips for the previous four consecutive-days – don’t we deserve, at the least, an injection of razzle-dazzle every once in a while? A little je ne sais quoi? It’s time to deck out the dining table, parboil some carrots and be (virtually) social.
Meet your glamorous new venture and the ultimate guide to throwing one: The Virtual Dinner Party. From who to invite to which crockery to set out, we’re here to aid you and your loved ones in throwing an iso-soiree. And yes, your remotely-seated guests may only be able to see you from the torso up but please, we are begging you, change out of the sweatpants.
The Invite List
The size of your gathering is key. Much like a physical dinner party, you want enough people to be able to provoke captivating conversation, but not too many that everyone’s fighting for the floor – especially when the opportunity for an incognito, kitchen tête-à-tête with a fellow diner is replaced by the hawk-like surveillance of a web-cam. Six to eight invitees are ideal and the opportunity to mix different social-circles should not be missed.
Unlike the usual airs and graces of a traditional affair, should the guests not get-on throughout supper, they can simply claim a ‘faulty connection’ and dip out.
You’ve got two fairly clear-cut options to think about when it comes to cuisine. You can, for ease, take the bland route of having everyone schedule a take-away for a set time, then tuck into a synchronised melting-pot buffet of slipshod trays and corrugated cartons. Alternatively (and much for gratifying) is to orchestrate a culinary-theme for your guests to interpret and cook ahead of the meet.
Perhaps you theme centres around a nationality or maybe you elect one ‘hero ingredient’, such as a piece of fresh fish or a particular spice. The latter option not only adds a layer of entertainment to the evening, but also a fail-safe conversation starter for your evening. We’ve been getting our most recent culinary inspiration from @Lailacooks and @BlondieandRye.
Are you the competitive type? Us too. Turn it into a good-natured competition with the winner crowned collectively by the party. All the cutthroat fun of a quiz, but oodles more sophisticated.
This is as much for you as it is for your guests. Getting a little fancy will both set the scene on and off screen, allowing your affair to be as authentic and highbrow as possible. Dimmed lights and candles are a must to create a atmosphere, and nothing screams domestic-goddess like a matching crockery set sans chips. Lately, we’ve been loving the ornamental beauty of Hèrmes' Tie Set Dinner Plates.
Now you’ve got the basics nailed, it’s time to dial up the gilding. Fresh flours, conversational-print napkins and table runners will all help build up your aesthetic and mood, so break out the kitsch and serve up some supper-club maximalism. Pretty much anything from the Gucci homeware range will help you score major interior points, but these incense sticks will truly transport you to the upper echelons of boujee.
After many, many weeks of breathable hoodies and technical fabrics, you may have forgotten how to curate an outfit to go to the store in, never mind full-on occasion dressing. Think of this as an opportunity to "Marty McFly" back to the dress-up box days of your childhood – sequins, colour… A silhouette with structure!? Whether you’re taking this opportunity to trot out a pre-pandemic purchase or have, in fact, orchestrated an entire charade just so you can wear that whimsical Vampire’s Wife gown, nothing can lift your spirits and help your soul sing quite like a good game of dress-up.
In the words of Maria Sharapova, “when you look good, you feel good”, so get your fine self-looking, well… foxy fine and don’t be scared of busting out those killer heels you've been saving for a special occasion.
So there you go, a digital guide for a digi-dinner. While it may seem there are minimal advantages to hosting a supper online as opposed to in real life, there’s something to be said for only having to wash up your personal crockery - as opposed to the whole gathering's. Should that four-cheese Soufflé turn out more nucleur then Nigella? No one ever need to know. Now that’s out kind of silver lining.
Images courtesy of Getty Images.