In the spring of 2012 I hosted my first dinner party.
It was Passover, and as I was thousands of miles away from home studying abroad in Florence, Italy with no place to celebrate the holiday. Passover had always been one of the most anticipated holidays in my parents house, and every year I looked forward to celebrating the holiday by indulging in the incredible dishes that I had grown up watching my mom prepare. So, when I realized that Passover was right around the corner and I had no one to prepare a matzo ball soup for me, homesickness began to kick in. I did some research and found some options of places to go to possibly attend a Seder, but for me the main purpose of the holiday is to surround oneself with good friends and family, and so the thought of going through the rituals of the Haggadah with strangers just didn't feel right. While chatting with two friends who were in a similar situation, it occurred to me that I didn't need to venture out to find a place to celebrate Passover, when I could just prepare the festive meal myself.
At the time I was a very novice cook who had only just learned how to cook chicken in a pan, so while the idea to prepare a whole meal with the traditional Passover foods seemed daunting, it was a challenge I was ready to take on. I had my mom email her recipes, and I spent a day with my roommates attempting to find the appropriate ingredients in the Florentine supermarket, and haphazardly throwing things together in pots and pans with fingers crossed that an edible meal would come out of my attempt.
As my friends and I sat down to enjoy the meal that we had all worked to create, I thought about the Seders that my parents hosted, a tradition that they had shared with their friends since before I was even born, and I realized that I was now old enough to start creating my own traditions of my own.
The following year I was back in New York for Passover, and it was my first Spring living in my current apartment. As the holiday approached, I thought back to my Seder in Florence. It was a very special moment to have hosted something that had been so important to my parents by myself, I realized that I wanted to do it again. As I was concerned about the size of my apartment, and had not yet mastered the art of cooking in a tiny studio, I actually cooked 100% of the meal with my mom at my parents house in Westchester and schlepped an absurd amount of Tupperware on the 4 train from the Bronx all the way to my apartment and just reheated everything for my guests.
When my first New York Seder was successful, I realized this was a tradition that I wanted to keep up, and now 6 years later I am proud to say I am still hosting an annual "friends Seder" in my apartment with my New York friends (both Jewish and Non-Jewish). Through these dinners I have learned how to work with my apartment and furniture to manipulate the space to become the best for hosting, and have just had the most incredible times sharing food and wine with amazing people. I am also very proud of the fact that two of my friend have been at all six of my New York Seders.
I am also proud of the fact that I learned how to cook in my own apartment and no longer have to carry a dinner for 14 with me on the 4 train.
Knowing my apartment is is a place with its own tradition, where people from across multiple friend groups can come together once a year to enjoy a meal and feel cozy affirms the fact that even a 300 ft studio can be more than just an apartment - it can be a home.
*authors note - a friend who just read this post reminded me that I actually hosted my first dinner party the spring before this when I held a birthday dinner in my dorm room for a friend's birthday. However, as the majority of the meal came from the NYU dining hall, I decided not to include it in this blog.