Discover more from Frank
who's coming to dinner
On writing and dinner parties
A poet friend friend of mine, Adam Falkner, told me that my purpose in life is to tell other people’s stories. He wasn’t just talking about my writing, though he likes that just fine, but the dinner party I’d invited him to. Lately, I’ve restarted my brief summer tradition of cooking dinner for a rotating group of friends from a favorite cookbook. I don’t devour cookbooks enough for my liking. They often operate as coffee table books, but for your kitchen. For those who have guests over for cocktails — food doesn’t even need to be on the menu and it rarely is — a glimpse at the carefully curated cookbooks in your kitchen are worth the cover price. I haven’t flipped through the entirety of the books on my coffee table: Pete Souza’s Obama book, Louis Vuitton Foundation’s Basquiat book, Rihanna’s gorgeously humongous book of portraiture. But guests have while aimlessly mid-conversation or out curiosity if they’re the first to arrive (my habitual lateness extends to the parties I throw and the first to arrive will often find themselves playing host while I’m finishing getting dressed; which I think is an appropriate punishment for showing up at 7pm on the dot). My cookbooks have always suffered the same fate, except with an added twinge of guilt whenever someone assumes I use the cookbooks frequently when they share how much the Dishoom cookbook makes them miss London or that they don’t care what people say about Chrissy Teigen, her recipes are bomb.
But what better time than the January winters of New York to host friends for a casual dinner and copious amounts of red wine? The dinners I hosted in Los Angeles feel almost fraudulent in retrospect. I was too devoted to getting everything just right. The table settings. The guest list. The music. The napkins. The silverware. It was enough to drive me crazy and it often did. And lord knows my temper is often short when I’m unable to meet my own unreasonable expectations I’ve arbitrarily set for myself.
These recent dinners have felt much more relaxing because I’ve allowed myself to do what I actually enjoy — cooking and hanging out with friends. The people you care enough to cook for don’t actually care what silverware you serve them on. They don’t care if you’re still cooking when they arrive. In fact, they love a peek into the process. Much like they enjoy watching how my mind crafts a joke mid-conversation, they love watching me substitute an ingredient because I’ve forgotten to get another or listening to me explain why the skin contact wine I’m serving them is my latest obsession since visiting Margot, a natural wine bar in Downtown Miami.
And I enjoy catching up with friends in a situation that’s not a crowded Brooklyn or West Village restaurant (though I usually find myself at one of those three nights a week). I enjoy listening to close friends who’ve never met one another discover what else they have in common besides me. That’s where Adam’s quote comes in, I believe. When he said my “purpose in life is to tell other people’s stories,” he might’ve just been drunk, but he was also talking about how I’ve gathered various people who’ve had strong impacts on my life and letting my stories with them play out on a different stage with several other stories. It’s the equivalent to sitting down at the computer and sifting through all the life experiences in your brain and finding which ones meld together to tell a new, much more beautiful story.
When you have a dinner party, invite the new friend you’ve only met a couple weeks ago that you’re absolutely obsessed with. Invite an ex you can tolerate and be surprised at how excited you are to hear about his new relationship. Invite two friends in the midst of planning a wedding and get wrapped up in all the minutiae of the wedding details. Maybe by the end of the night, you’ll have several chapters in a new book. Whether that be a printed one or merely the ever-evolving novel of your life.
most recently i used Dishoom: The first ever cookbook from the much-loved Indian restaurant and Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over… i cooked the chicken ruby and basmati rice and the post of pasta with broccoli rabe & chorizo bread crumbs, respectively… i forgot to marinate my chicken for the ruby, so i pan cooked the chicken and its seasoning in oil till the chicken was nearly cooked… there was no broccoli rabe to speak of at my nearby grocery stores so i swapped in collard greens.
my favorite wine for dinner this week were The Marigny Sunny Side Skin Contact Wine by St. Reginald Parish (light, dry, and sweet but not nauseatingly so).
i’m back on keep it this week but still in the midst of shooting the latest television show i’ve worked on, hence the month-long break from frank… mea culpa!
bless my subscribers that have survived my irregular updates in 2021… the almodóvar essays will continue this year! the skin i live in and women on the verge of a nervous breakdown are forthcoming in february