Hold On To…The Formal Dinner

Even if it’s just two Sundays a year. Even if it’s just blazers and bowties, sundresses and sandals.

Especially if it’s just family and friends.

Set the table. Cook the food. Light the candles. Turn off the phones.

Sit. Eat. Converse.

For civilization is not merely knowing the rules of etiquette: it is knowing the value of time.

  • BGT


14 thoughts on “Hold On To…The Formal Dinner

  1. Formal dinning is my favorite. Family and friends are our true wealth. Great for health because it’s great for the soul.

  2. I absolutely love the formal dinner. Growing up (1980s) my family headed next door to my Grandma’s for dinner every Sunday after church, so still in church clothes- until we were older and begged to change our outfit first. The settings were not formal, but the manners and tradition were. At that time, the kids were expected to listen to, not monopolize, the conversation. My parents and their friends assembled at the time a “gourmet club”, I believe they called it, which was a semi-formal dinner featuring different cuisines/themes from around the world that they cooked themselves. And today my immediate family (which now ranges in age from 5-70) head to the Four Seasons Chicago on Christmas Day for an incredible buffet. Everyone wears their best, and the atmosphere is so beautiful it warms my heart. It is a good reminder of formal table manners for the younger generation, and of course the best part is the lively conversation while overlooking the city. I have a theory that any food consumed in good company is good for your health. The technically nutritious diet eaten alone or with a negative companion is simply not.

  3. Reading this post helped me realize how fortunate I am. About ten years ago I married a lady from a different culture. The norm in her country is three meals a day that are made from scratch with no snacking. Our second week
    of marriage she came into the house with a set of bone china serveware new in the Box from a thrift store, a pile of cloth napkins and something I never saw called a Pressure cooker. She told me that she needs to eat properly
    and the pressure cooker is used to make stews and roasts easily during the week and to please never feed her frozen food from a microwave a again.

    The weekends are quite magical in my house, we have fresh fruits with different whole grain breads for breakfast. (Fruit that starts to turn gets turned into Jam or Banana pancakes.) Lunch after Sunday Mass can be a soup with cured meats and a little desert. Dinner which is usually cooking all day will be a brisket, roast beef or a stew. Left overs are placed into glass containers in our ll bean lunch bags for lunch the next day. It’s nice at 7:00 AM on a Sunday to be sitting down with my family for a nice breakfast and even better to end the day at 8:00 PM in our dinning room. Our work schedules are a little different but we do eat breakfast together and we talk while lunches are being packed. (Even though I work in NYC I felt better about packing my lunch after reading about an old money former First Lady who used to pack Tuna sandwiches for her office lunch)

    It’s not hard to eat more formally and it certainly saves money. America actually used eat like this but from what I can see the late 70’s to 90’s really looks it’s toll on our culture. I am hoping things change.

  4. What a great story, Bob. And yes, indeed, you are a fortunate man. I think it would do us all a world of good if we returned to the formal dinner, and meals in general. It doesn’t have to be with china (although that is beautiful and preferable to me), but just well-prepared meals with family would help tremendously.

  5. For those with Southern European roots, formal might mean less formal than in the North (or the US).
    Still, tradition and family are almost sacred. Silver, crystal and porcelain, a must. The food, delicious.

    In the spirit of the poem “If”, by Rudyard Kipling:
    If you appreciate a formal dinner, yet do not look down on a Stoic meal…

  6. Thank You Bev – my wife taught me how to cook so I handle the cooking on the weekends. My wife growing up never ate off a paper plate or used paper cups. When I worked in Europe it was nice to go to the company canteen and eat using real cutlery. Our little boy has to use something called a “spork” in his school cafeteria because they don’t allow forks or knives.

    1. Bob, we (our family) has drifted away from the formality, but thanks to this conversation, I’m going to start going back. We used to have wonderful Sunday dinners and holiday dinners with the china, but the “good dishes” were reserved for those special occasions. I have beautiful collections of china and crystal, some bought, some gifted, some inherited. I’m going to get it from the back of the cupboard and start to use it again…everyday. We still do cook, so that was never the issue. Thanks to both you and Byron for this inspiring post.

  7. Your Welcome – Bev. What I find fascinating was that you can go to a thrift store or consignment store and get bone China for a lot less than a used laptop or flat screen TV. It’s good for the environment too. One last bit of advice is that I enjoy German coffee and European chocolate and a store that sells both is a German chain called Aldi’s. Aldi’s was very popular in Europe (not so much here), there you can buy french lemonade in (their version of Lorina) in wonderful bottles that we use to decant water or unused wine. If you bring your lunch to work thrift stores are great places to buy mismatched cutlery that can be used for brown bag lunches.

  8. I would like to share that we recently invited extended family to a “sit down” dinner at our home with all of the trimmings to celebrate some of the family birthdays and anniversaries that fall closely together. It had the atmosphere of the after church Sunday dinner many have previously discussed. We were shocked afterward to hear the extended family rave about what a wonderful time they had and what a perfect day it was. In fact, it has been mentioned several times since. We honestly did not go out of our way in the least. We just opened our home and dining room to people we care about. I believe that was the key to the good time had by all.

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