I Threw a Dinner Party in Isolation

Every week, Bon Appetit associate editor Christina Chaey writes about what she's cooking right now. Pro tip: I

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Every week, Bon Appetit associate editor Christina Chaey writes about what she's cooking right now. Pro tip: If you sign up for the newsletter, you'll get the scoop before everyone else.

Dear Healthyish readers,

Forty-three days ago, my roommate Emma brought home a case of wine. This was back when plenty of us were still going out to restaurants and bars, and we were all just beginning to ask our friends if they knew what “social distancing” meant. I’ll tell you what I thought it meant at the time: that we wouldn’t be able to go out to eat for a little while, but that we could most certainly keep throwing big, all-night dinner parties in the otherwise-uncertain interim; hence the wine. Less than 24 hours later, both of my roommates and I had all read the same somber news articles that made it extremely clear that we wouldn’t be having anyone over—possibly for a very long time.

I cried that night after the three of us agreed it was best to not have people over anymore for the time being. I felt stupid for grieving over something so trivial—and something that hadn’t even happened yet—while also already knowing that I would miss these ordinary and amazing evenings, spent with friends in our home, more than anything.

Sure, we’ve been finding ways to get creative about hanging out without actually hanging out—I’ve partaken in FaceTime cooking lessons and socially distant birthday parties, and am currently on a dizzyingly long email thread about the agenda for a virtual bachelorette party I’m “attending” next weekend—but I don’t have to tell you it’s just not the same when you can’t bring the party home.

A little apéro to start things off

I’m not sure why it took us a month and a half of isolation to come up with the idea, but a couple of Sundays ago, while many others were logging into virtual Passover seders or orchestrating Easter egg hunts over Zoom, we decided we would throw a dinner party for ourselves. A proper one, with candles and runny cheese and crackers and dessert.

A couple of days before, we started riffing on menu ideas centered around the beautiful whole branzino waiting in the freezer. (Have I mentioned how much I love Pierless Fish? If you live in NYC, you need to get on this.) I was fresh off my weekly grocery shop, and I was feeling flush. There would be a big leafy salad with marinated golden beets and crunchy walnuts. A cheesy, greens-stuffed galette like a cross between torta pasqualina (a savory Easter tart) and creamed spinach (a food that needs no holiday to show up at the table, imo). And, this being a dinner party for the times, there would obviously be beans.

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