It’s taken years of stress over planning the perfect party to make me realize that the best things happen naturally. Everything always seems to work out fine no matter how much I’ve worried about it; the food never runs out, we always end up with more bottles of wine than we had in the first place – in fact, the only regret I always have is that I never have long enough to talk to everyone. Parties these days are much more relaxed. I repeat like a mantra that there’s nothing to stress over – prepare food that I like myself (as I will probably have too much and we will end up eating leftovers), leave the kitchen as soon as people start to arrive, accept any and all offers of help so that my guests are involved in everything, and enjoy their company from the first minute to the last.
One particular secret tip for you, which might just be perfect for book club meetings: my friend John brought this to my 30th birthday party (twelve years ago! It was the same party at which he met his future wife, my then room-mate Heather) and it has become a tradition at every social occasion. It’s very simple: a bowl of Amaretti biscuits, a bowl containing Marsala wine, and a bowl of mascarpone. What you do is take a biscuit, dip it in the Marsala and then scoop up some mascarpone and eat. Heaven. And a very sociable snack, too.