Do you go out to dinner with your friends, or do you cook for one another?

I was wondering because it seems that I went through life stages with dining out.

Back in my early 20s, I often entertained at home, reveling in the new experience of playing hostess. Armed with the Silver Palate, I whipped up lovely dinners of cheap food and cheaper wine. I lived in Milwaukee at the time, and everyone seemed to live close enough for a spontaneous dinner.

When I hit 30 and had my daughter, restaurants were out of the question in my new city of Washington, DC. Of course, my darling was an angel, but my friends’ children? Unruly hooligans who made fine dining a distant memory!

When our children grew old enough to stay at home without babysitters, no one wanted to sit in beltway traffic to get to a friend’s house. The compromise was to meet at DC restaurants in the middle of the Virginia-Maryland-DC triangle. Our paychecks had grown along with our children, so we could sometimes indulge in the latest foodie hot spot.

And now, in our Charleston, SC semi-retirement? Home has become a haven. We’re selective about who we let in because people tend to leave behind whatever energy they came in with. For some, we always meet at restaurants. And, for a select few, we cook.

It used to be a luxury to eat at the trendy restaurants. Now, it’s a luxury to cook a meal for friends who are close enough that they don’t really care if the soufflé sinks. We used to crave the buzz of a popular restaurant; now we long for a place where we can actually hear our friends’ witticisms.

I may not turn out food that rivals the latest gastro-orgasm of a celebrity chef, but more often than not I prefer a friend’s bon mot at home to a bon appetit in a fancy restaurant.

Where do you eat with your friends, and what stage are you in with dining out?

Dinner with Friends

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