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Feeling Saucy: A Deep Dive into The St Andrews Dinner Party Scene

Last Saturday I attended the pièce de resistance of our university’s social culture—the dinner party. Now, as I begin to write this from the starkly different setting of the library’s top floor, I wonder why, particularly in St Andrews, the notion of hosting a dinner party is so enticing. When one thinks of the average university student, images of pot noodles, precariously balanced on the arm of a sofa, while a comfort television show plays in the background springs to mind. While these carb cuisines are undoubtedly delectable, the St Andrews student is often more partial to the drama and excitement of a more sophisticated palate.

So, on Saturday I found myself in my friend’s kitchen where she had gathered a smorgasbord of folk together for a night of good food, good chat, and good vibes (aided most definitely by the bottle of Clubcard wine we were all instructed to bring). The night started out civilised, with discussions of the first week back and the hard reality of being a fourth year dominating the conversation. The evening progressed, measured by the candle wax slowly dripping onto the table, pushing both my friend’s deposit and the day further away.

But what is all the fuss about? Surely there is nothing out of the ordinary here, and why thus does a dinner party merit discourse? Alas, the St Andrews dinner party is much more than a semi-formal setting for the digestion of food. It’s a hatchery of candlelit chaos, of alcohol-induced intimacy, and a chance to let one’s hair down while consuming some top-notch student scran. Unlike a house party, the dinner party is a curation of individuals, hand-picked for a wholesome and social evening.

One of the best things about the dinner party is the collaboration. The host usually takes the bulk of the cooking upon themselves, but with St Andrews’ prices, gathering the food is usually spread across those attending, adding nutritional value to the list of benefits. This results in an evening of group effort, a feeling of fond comradery rather than a more idle solo meal. Once the food is sorted, the next task is finding your place name and thus who you will be flirting or awkwardly touching elbows with for the next few hours.

One’s neighbours are an essential part of the dining experience. St Andrews is a town that, I’d argue, is an intricate web of social relationships. This means that a dinner party can range from an in-depth and all-consuming conversation with your closest friends or you may find yourself starting a conversation with the classic ‘oh do you know so and so’ or god forbid you resort to ‘how was your summer’. Both circumstances give way to an entertaining evening regardless.

It is regularly mentioned that one leaves this town either married or an alcoholic, and depending on where you are seated, you may leave the party as the latter. Therein, the simple intention of a dinner party often becomes more loosely inclined. With plentiful vino in vision, the night regularly turns rather boozy. On Saturday I should’ve sensed the shift. As soon as the host replaced Debussy with Doja Cat, it was the beginning of the end. This classic post-pudding shift in melody understood that what was pitched as a casual catch over a carbonara was just a facade. Even so, that is what’s so enchanting about the dinner party. It is the perfect opportunity to wholesomely share a meal or to manifest an ‘accidental’ night out, (despite swearing that you would only have a few glasses of wine).

As with any societal understanding, one should embrace all quirks and components, and thus for the culture of our town: St Andrews wouldn’t be the same without its tried and tested niche of the dinner party.

Illustration: Hannah Beggerow

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