The Making of a "Wuthering Heights" Dinner Party
Welcome back to our dinner party series! So we already talked about the format and flow of our weekly literary dinner parties in our last post. Our formula is basically a movie with good friends, good food, and good book discussion! Now, let's talk details and how sincerely low effort and achievable this is if you want to try it out for yourself with your friends, your bookclub, or even just with your family. You could even enjoy this by yourself!
This week's Wednesday date was a viewing of "Wuthering Heights", as we had buddy read Emily Brontë's classic novel together recently, and it was time to check out the movie! We chose the 2011 version with Kaya Scodelario and James Howson, which was lovely and atmospheric and beautifully filmed, although really sloooooooowwwwww. They nailed the nuanced interactions between Heathcliff and Catherine and absolutely captured their wild, intense selves, but completely ignored the second half of the book (though we can't blame them), so it was a movie we ultimately ended up feeling tepid towards.
Setting up my home to be appropriately atmospheric was actually rather simple and straightforward. I love using Pinterest for visual inspiration, and began by making this board to find a look I liked that captured this gothic novel. I ended up aiming to make it feel rough and spare, with plenty of moody candlelight and dramatic florals.
A trip to Trader Joe's yielded a bunch of blood red gladiolus, stew meat, a hunk of soft cheese, and a rustic rosemary round of bread. I trimmed the flowers and dropped them in a dark vase I found at Homegoods on clearance, then raided my stash of candles to pile on the table. I ended up mixing varying heights of plain white pillar candles, gray and red tapers, and tea lights galore. I also pulled a hefty dark geode from a bookshelf (it was being used as a bookend in my bedroom) and a black glass candle that had been hanging out on my bar to add into the scene. Simple enough.
The mix of natural elements, simple dramatic flowers, and just a ton of haphazard candlelight spilling out on the table really worked to create that wild, moody feel of "Wuthering Heights" we were going for. What a sharp contrast to the cozy, fresh, feminine feel of our "Little Women" party last week!
Seriously, just start by scouring your house for any items that fit the theme/mood/color scheme you're aiming for and gather them up. Don't overthink it. I definitely get creative with stuff I already have; one of the bases a pillar candle is sitting on is actually a soap dish. Homegoods, Target, and THRIFT STORES are also great places to pick up odds and ends, or pieces to fill in your tablescape cheaply. I tend to scour clearance sections to pick up things I like that are versatile and easily used in many ways throughout the year, and my curated collection lives on the top shelf of my tiny pantry, neatly out of sight until I need it.
Once you have your items, just stick them on your table however they look prettiest to you, and BOOM, ambiance! This can be as simple or as elaborate as you want, but I'm telling you even just 15 minutes spent gathering items and arranging them as a focal point on the table makes such an impact, and sets a great tone for the evening.
Dinner is the last step, of course. We really try to think about either food scenes in our novel, or food appropriate to the time and place of the books setting. Since all the food in "Wuthering Heights" are things like dirty bread, thin porridge, and tea, we opted to go for a spare, rustic 19th century pub food feel with a beef pot pie and a full bodied red wine to accompany our simple cheese board. The aim was just to have something fitting for the book instead of, say, a taco bar (even though tacos are pretty much the best thing ever). Our dessert was similarly appropriate, as we went with some good old fashioned homemade chocolate pudding and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies! So good!
Food certainly doesn't have to be complicated, I used a store bought pie crust for my beef pot pie, and have been known to just purchase pretty desserts from the store instead of attempting to make them myself, like I did here. I do genuinely like to cook, and usually opt for a simple dinner menu I can execute without much fuss, but if I truly want something that feels too time consuming, I just buy it and don't give it a second thought. It's also helpful that Rikki and I trade off whose turn it is to cook, so we keep it balanced between us. I definitely don't ever want to feel like these weekly dinner parties are consuming my day or are becoming stressful, so I cut corners wherever I need to to keep it feeling easy and fun to host!
And there we have it! Our straightforward take on a literary dinner party that requires minimal time or effort, and delivers a big impact! Even though we have been doing this for several months now, it still feels really enjoyable to create and execute, and has definitely added something valuable and tangible to our reading lives. We highly recommend trying this out for yourself; we think you'll be shocked at how much you get out of the experience!
If you do, don't forget to tag us @theardentbiblio or #TheArdentBiblioReads so we can see what you come up with.