The hostess gift was all the rage in the uber-polite 50s. You wouldn’t dream of showing up to someone’s house without flowers, chocolates or pie. Possibly even a gelatine mold (it was the 50s, after all – jellies were all the rage, darling). At some point, however, having people over for supper seems to have gone out of fashion. Restaurants became cheaper and more varied and people simply stopped going to all the trouble of cooking an all-day roast with all the trimmings. These days, of course, more casual dinner parties are the norm. All the fuss and frou-frou has given way to share plates and free pours. But somewhere along the way, the hostess gift fell by the wayside. And we think it’s high time to bring it back. Perhaps not the gelatine mold, but certainly the rest.
We’ll tell you why
Throwing a dinner party – even a spur-of-the-moment one – adds up. Providing enough nosh for six or eight people means handing over some serious dough. And while you may think that sidling up to the front door with a bottle of merlot in hand constitutes bringing a gift, that’s not entirely true. The likelihood is you’ll drink the wine with dinner that night – which is to be expected – but hardly makes a gift for your hard-working host. There’s also the time factor involved in prepping a party – the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning. In short, someone’s gone to a lot of trouble and it’s polite to show your appreciation. Not to mention – and here’s the real kicker – you’re much more likely to be invited back.
So what to bring
There are two main kinds of hostess gifts – edible and decorative. And edible gift might constitute of monogrammed petit fours, truffle oil or even a box of Himalayan rock salt. A decorative gift might be a linen tea towel, a bunch of peonies or a scented candle. And if you want something that will make you the star of the evening, a game like Cards of Humanity or wooden Jenga set will really get the party started. In the end, a hostess gift is basically your way of saying, “Hey friend, I appreciate you. Keep up the good work.” And who doesn’t want to hear that?
Of course, I can feel some of you – as if through screen osmosis – shaking your head and saying, “Well, sure – it’d be nice if I could afford to buy them a solid gold toilet seat too, but we’re not all made of money.” If cost is a problem, there’s a really easy solution – go DIY. Try whipping up some homemade rosewater, potting a fresh cutting from your garden or even crocheting them a placemat. If you’re not the creative type, simply penning a handwritten thank you letter will say so much more than even the words you put in it. The thing about dinner parties is they’re a collaborative effort and the truly memorable ones involved everyone getting on board. We all worry about being a good host, but we should spend time being a good guest too. Here’s cheers!