An essential book that should be in every food lovers personal library is James Salter and Kay Salter's "Life is Meals", where both of those talented authors share their love of food and entertaining with random thoughts, recipes, and memories, one for each day of the year. It is a perfect book for your bedside, as the entries are short and you can read as much or as little as you want. Erudite, funny, insightful, I'll share one of my favorite passages from early in the book (January 15 to be exact), regarding dinner parties:
"You decide to give a dinner party. Someone is coming to town, or it seems a good idea to introduce someone to someone else, or you're just in the mood to have an evening with friends. As W.S. Gilbert said, 'When planning a dinner party, what's more important than what's on the table is what's on the chairs.' The first thing is to invite the main guests. The others are chosen as complements--a mix, if possible, of couples and singles, men and women, though we don't try for a perfect balance. No more than seven, usually, including ourselves, since that's the most our table will comfortably seat. In general, two at a table makes for the most intimate talk, though that's not really a dinner party. Nor is three, though then the conversation is likely to be the most revealing. Four is congenial, and five the most interesting with its slight imbalance. Six is pleasant, but tends toward the conventional if it is three couples, especially if they're already acquainted. There can be larger parties, of course, but then it is impossible for evereyone to join in one conversation, and --if the guests are interesting---people end up feeling that wherever they sat, they've missed something."
An inveterate and enthusiastic dinner party giver like myself can only agree. There's so much more to be gleaned from this wonderful book that I can't recommend it enough as the perfect gift for yourself or any food lover in your life!