The Cocktail Party: Don't Scoop the Brie

by Marisa Olsen



I, like many other female counterparts, can be labeled as a "cocktail party girl." I love getting a little dressed up, mingling, sipping on champagne and nibbling on caviar
canapés. But are cocktail parties all that they are cracked up to be? Let's dissect.
First of all, it can be awkward. You're basically transported into a world of buzzing strangers and somehow expected to carry on a conversation. Hi, How are you? What do you do? Where are you from? What NESCAC/ Ivy did you attend? Greek life? Sailing? French lessons in St. Tropez? You get the point. Not to brag, but this stuff is second nature to me. I come from a small family, in which I interacted with adults and can carry on a boring, mundane conversation and but will from time-to-time, try to spice it up (insert: lie), to make a dull conversation a bit more interessant.
Two, I find that it is important to attend these soirees with a goal in mind. One must align their aspirations prior to entering the hectic arena. Personally, my main concern is the food, but this can prove to be quite challenging. The second I arrive in a social arena, I need two things: a drink in hand and food in mouth. That being said, I try to make a bee line to the bar while observing and pin pointing food locations around the room. Often time hors d'oeuvre are delivered by a wait staff. Noted. Both situations acquire adept skill. A novice would think presented food is easier to conquer, but this common misconception can be quite the opposite. Since many people assume that cocktail parties are for mindless chatter and a possible networking of-I-may-use- your-name-on-a-cover-letter, these chatterers often pop up as obstacles, just as you're bee lining to the blue cheese and grape platter. Eff. You're stuck listening to financial jargon and where to find discounted Tori Burch shoes (Marshalls). One must be direct and even abrupt. I have been known to say, "Excuse me, I really need that crab cake over there." Often times that can be a conversation starter/ender in itself, whatever you prefer. Although I may be a social creature by nature, but food trumps all.
Now, the latter issue at hand also has it's downfalls. It is important to strategically scope out the wait staff. Are they male or female (this can be important)? Can you manage to make initial eye contact? Where do they appear to be coming from? It is not a faux pas to align yourself near the kitchen door to receive first dibs. Nor is it a faux pas to "casually flirt" with the wait staff. ALWAYS say thank you. Even if you're not interested in the chicken satay because you know you will be inevitably stuck with an awkward stick,* alternatively, always say "no thank you," with direct eye contact and a smile. These people will be come your best allies over the course of the evening. Also, it is imperative to at least mumble some kind of response when refusing a beef tartare as you are masticating on a stuffed mushroom. Timing can be bad, but it's not their fault. I've also been known to be direct with my newly founded friends, often times saying things like "Oh, I really like these!" Miracles have happened; I once was gifted with a small plate stacked of bacon wrapped scallops entirely for me. And yes, I was near the kitchen area.
Here are a few other quirks or advice. Stay away from the spinach. I'm sorry, it's hard, but it's a must. You may not be on the "is there anything in my teeth" level with your cocktail partner.
Even if it's not polite, I try to stuff the
canapé in my mouth in one fell swoop. You don't want any chick peas falling to the floor, or worse, in your chardonnay. Just chew as fast as you say, cover your mouth and make a joke after to ease the tension. Or, it can be best to avoid the two-bite toasted bruschettas, but where is the fun in in that?
When asked a question mid-bite (wait staff excluded), make them wait, you don't want to be caught talking "sea food" My Girl style.
*Always grab a napkin. It can be a great covering tool for the annoying toothpick booby prize you will get stuff with.
When at the cheese platter, don't be intimidated and pressured into the small awkward plates. Just go ahead, scoop into that melted brie. What's the point in hand-picking your grapes onto a plate, you're going to eat them in two minutes? Plus when you have a plate and a beverage in hand, how will you be able to do either? Exactly, ditch the small plate, like I said, go ahead, scoop that brie.
Don't worry about being too direct when it comes to finding food, it's on everyone's mind, you'll just be praised for being so honest. Unless you don't like food and that's a whole other issue.