By MARIE GILBERT
9:46 AM EDT, October 11, 2012
The silver has been polished and the heirloom china has been set on a flowing, monogrammed tablecloth.
Candles are lit, music plays softly in the background and everyone is dressed up.
The setting might take you back to the 1950s when dinner parties were all the rage.
Couples received invitations, time and effort went into menu planning and cocktails were served.
As the decades passed, so did the idea of such formal affairs. "Relaxed" became the buzz word and dressing down was a must.
But in Jane Gocha's case, dinner parties have never fallen out of favor.
She still sets a beautiful table, prepares a special meal and invites at least eight couples for a sophisticated dining experience.
In Gocha's opinion, it's the only way to entertain.
"I've probably been doing this for 40 years," the Hagerstown woman said. "I've always enjoyed entertaining. But I prefer to do it with an elegant touch."
Gocha, 67, said she was influenced early in life by both her grandmother and mother, who always made dining a special experience.
"As a child, every Sunday I sat down to eat with my family in my grandmother's dining room," she recalled. "And everything looked lovely — from the tablecloth to the china and serving pieces."
Today, Gocha said she owns many of the items that once graced that table.
"So, with such beautiful things — some of them over 100 years old — I want to use them," she said.
Gocha said people have always entertained at home but the idea of dinner parties "disappeared in our children's generation. They just didn't want to go through the effort. It was easier to get together as a group and eat out at a restaurant."
But dinner parties don't have to involve a lot of work, she added.
It's the way it's presented — elegantly.
"We have friends who prepare meat loaf. But the table is exquisite. Couples dress up. And there's a special atmosphere," Gocha said.
Gocha and her husband usually host about five dinner parties through the winter months, preparing all the food — from hors d'oeurves, soup and salad to the entree and dessert.
"I'm a good cook so I enjoy being in the kitchen," she said. "And I really don't have to spend the entire day cooking. It depends on what I'm making. But it doesn't have to take hours and hours."
One of her favorite meals, she said, is a beef roast and pork roast cooked together. A favorite of her guests, however, is a dessert "that everyone loves" — hot fudge cream puffs.
Gocha said her guest list is usually five or six couples, who all have a love of fine dining.
The group also prepares comfort food dinners several times a year. While the Gochas host all of the dinner parties, these meals are rotated among other couples.
"They tend to be more relaxed, but we still set nice tables, complete with fresh flowers," she noted.
In addition to her dining group, Gocha belongs to a local gourmet club.
Gocha said she would love to see a return to elegant dinner parties as the preferred way to entertain at home.
"It takes so little effort," she said. "You don't have to prepare expensive meals. You don't have to have dishes that are heirloom pieces. You can go to Marshall's and buy beautiful things. It's all in how it's presented — an evening of good food, a beautifully set table and close friends who enjoy dressing up."
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