Eating Together Isn’t Always about the Food

I got really nervous last night before the dinner party – I was lucky that I was running around getting everything ready or I would have probably had a pretty serious anxiety attack. Husband was doing his best to reassure me, but keeping moving was more helpful – Husband on his worst day is less anxious than my best day.

The roots of my worries were two things that made this dinner party different: one was that I was making all the food, not technically having a potluck. So this meant I was making a lot of food just in case anyone brought extra friends. Second was more important, which was all the other people at my dinner parties have been grad school friends – people with a ton of things in common, who were similar ages. For this party, I only invited folks I’d met around town since moving here – all acquaintances, many of whom didn’t know each other. They were all different ages, all different occupations… I didn’t know if anyone would say anything to each other.

All the other parties had some kind of fun dinner-party theme and the focus could be on the food – people did get to know each other, but they mostly talked about the tiny appetizers or the many soups. For this one, front and center was the conversation, with a few plates of enchiladas and a salad for anyone who wanted it.

As people arrived, I saw easy introductions made and got people drinks, and like magic… they all talked about dogs. Dogs! Husband and I don’t have one or want one, but everyone else at our party had dog stories to share. From there, I eventually pulled the food out of the oven and got everything situated, but we all wandered through the house in different groups, some playing foosball and some just sitting. I got to talk to everyone a little, and people who didn’t know each other well before bonded.

It was hands down my favorite dinner experience so far. I would definitely say it’s not for the faint of heart – my resolution is to save these kind of conversation-driven parties for friends I know well and try to have an activity (movie night or game night) if lots of folks are new to me. Still, I’m pretty thrilled. I did a brave thing, and while it was a small brave thing, I’ve already had two messages today from people who enjoyed themselves; it really did happen!

Meal Planning for a Non-Potluck Dinner Party!

I am really excited about tomorrow’s dinner party for two reasons: one, it’s mostly people that haven’t been to my house (I’ve only seen them at public events around town, so now I’m really having ‘strangers’ into my home!). The other is that instead of making it potluck, I am making all the food – or at least enough food, with any things the guests bring as extra.

Planning a meal like this is delicate – I’m not a fancy person, and I cannot even pretend to be effectively, so I’m having to keep it simple. I think I might have a vegetarian or two, so I’m hoping to do some black bean and sweet potato enchiladas, black bean and shredded chicken enchiladas, and some tomato-and-onion rice as a side. We made some snack-y foods this week in preparation for the event, and I’ll throw together a salad with green peppers, mushrooms and carrots the day of… I might make a pound cake for dessert, just to top it all off! This way, we’ve got a dinner that is a little customizable (add sour cream? add avocado? Be my guest!) and hearty, but not fancy or overwhelming. It’s just having people over for Mexican food, pretty much.

The meal planning is only part of it, though, when I think about having total strangers over. Husband is certainly going to want to have a fire in the fireplace and maybe take folks on a tour of the house – I hope he can convince someone to play on our mostly-neglected foosball table. I hope that we can get folks talking about subjects that bring them joy rather than just talking about things they liked and disliked about the recent Presidential election; part of my mental planning is wondering how we’ll handle people getting heated on such subjects. I even have to plan for chairs – there are going to be about 10 of us (!!!) and that’s just slightly too much to fit around our table.

In all of this, I’m trying to remember that it is important to bring people into your home and make them feel welcome. It’s worth it even if I feel like my house is imperfect and the food will be simple and the conversation could get odd. It’ll be a good party, and I’ll have completed 4 this year!

 

Finally: Dinner Party 2

So, we had a dinner party in January, and there was one in March that got cancelled, so finally, finally, we’re having dinner party the second. Meatball/”Meatball” cook-off style.

I’m hosting this in tandem with N, who has me very excited about cooking up a few kinds of meatballs in hopes of being the crowd favorite. Husband has invited a friend from work, we’ve invited a neighbor or two, and some of the folks from the first dinner party are returning. A good time and a full stomach is sure to be had by all.

I am so excited to get home tomorrow, folks. I love travelling, but I’m ready to be cooking in my own kitchen again, sleeping in my own bed, moving forward on my summer projects at my normal space. I miss coffee fresh-ground (sounds snobby, but everyone’s got a comfort thing like that, I think) and obviously, I miss Husband. This is the first 8-day absence since marriage! I’m ready to bug him to go get ice cream with me again.

So, I promise I’ll get back to posts about actual recipes, but it’s been fun to have the chance to write a little more creatively while on the road. If you are just tuning in, please do check out the many numbered posts about recipes I’ve tried for the project; it’s not always a personal travelogue around here. 🙂