It’s an old Broadway tradition: after opening night of a new show, the cast and crew go to a local bar, stay up all night, then read the morning newspaper reviews. A good review means the show is a success and the director goes home with the lead actor. A bad review means the show is a failure and the director goes home with the assistant stage manager. One review leads to triumph, the other to a sad, disappointing flop.
And there’s a very similar dinner party tradition: at the end of a dinner party, the hosts go to their bedroom, sleep all night, then read the morning text reviews. A “Great catching up! Had a blast!” means the party was a success, while a “Great catching up. Had a blast” means the party was a failure. It’s all about punctuation. Subtle, but it’s there.
The morning-after text can indicate the success or otherwise of the modern dinner party.Credit:Shutterstock
The "morning-after text" is an essential feature of modern dinner-partying, which is why I was devastated last week when we had a couple of friends round for dinner – our first dinner party in months – and we woke up the next morning to ... no text. Not even a lip-smacking emoji. Not even a thumbs up. Not even a thank you email, which is a ridiculously old-fashioned form of post-party-texting from the 20th century, but still acceptable in more formal social circles.
And it made no sense because we’d delivered a truly text-worthy night. The house looked nice and clean: we’d been cleaning for eight months solid – that alone deserves praise. The food was pretty good: I made an authentic green Thai chicken curry, though I added too much chilli paste so it became an authentic red Thai chicken curry, then I let it sit too long and it mottled into an authentic purple Thai chicken curry. But still, it tasted Thai-ish.
The dinner party chatter was outstanding. I hadn’t done any dinner-partying for ages, so I made sure I preplanned some talking points. Did a great riff on how the US is a failed experiment, which I stole from a Vanity Fair article that I didn't really understand, but still I sold it (it’s all about talking loud and sighing at the end of every sentence). And I did an interesting observational bit about the letter J that I’d been rehearsing for days: how there are so many J-names like Jordan, Jamie, Jerry, Jack, Jenny, Jane, but only a few J-words: all I could think of was jeep, jackal and jugs. Our friends were enthralled, I stretched it to about eight minutes, lots of J names to get through. Joaquin. Jaylani.
The food was pretty good and the conversation was outstanding.Credit:iStock
This dinner party was as lavish and entertaining as any Broadway show: there was mirth, music, and even mime. At one point I did my famous going-up-and-down-an-elevator-behind-the-kitchen-benchtop routine (the secret is a little “landing bump”. A lot of amateur kitchen-benchtop-elevator-mimers forget to do that. It makes all the diff). So our guests left looking happy and satisfied and mime-dazzled, but … no morning-after text.
It confused me. I began doubting myself. Was the purple Thai curry a little too lavender? Did I overuse the word “compounded”? For some reason I got hooked on the word and couldn’t stop. Why did you keep saying it, Danny, why???? Or maybe our friends just weren’t dinner-party match-fit, exactly like us, and they’d forgotten that fundamental post-party rule. So I prompted them: I sent them a text that said “Great catching up! Had a blast!”, and they immediately texted back “Ha! Agreed. A blast!”
It was good enough. I guess we’re all just a bit out of practice.
Danny Katz is a Melbourne humourist.
Danny Katz is a columnist for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. He writes the Modern Guru column in the Good Weekend magazine. He is also the author of the books Spit the Dummy, Dork Geek Jew and the Little Lunch series for kids.