Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Lost Art of Dinner Parties

Now I could be totally wrong here, but I feel like dinner parties aren't really that common. Especially among people in my age group. (Or I'm just not being invited to any... hmmm.)  Anyway the few (ok one) that I've been to was so fun! There was food and drinks and babies and music, what's not to love? I would love to do this more often.

Then the other day I came across a really great article.  The author pretty much talks about how with a young kid and working from home, she was starting to feel kinda isolated. So her and her husband decided to start a new tradition of having people over for spaghetti and meatballs every Friday night. Here's what she posted on her Facebook to start it off, I love it:

"So here's what Joe and I have decided to do, in my 33rd year, to make our lives happier: we are instituting a new tradition we call Friday Night Meatballs. Starting next Friday, we're cooking up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs every Friday night and sitting down at the dining room table as a family—along with anyone else who'd like to join us. Friends, neighbors, relatives, clients, Facebook friends who'd like to hang out in real life, travelers passing through: you are welcome at our table. We'll just ask folks to let us know by Thursday night so we know how many meatballs to make. You can bring something, but you don't have to. Kids, vegetarians, gluten-free types, etc. will all be taken care of. The house will be messy. There might be card and/or board games. There might be good Scotch. You might be asked to read picture books. You might make new friends. We'll just have to find out. This is our little attempt to spend more time with our village. You're invited."

What a brave and awesome idea! Here are some other highlights from the article:

"The response was immediate: I was inundated with 'likes' and comments from down the street and across oceans. I showed Joe and he raised an eyebrow: "We're going to need more chairs."
In the weeks that followed, we got used to hosting. It became less of an ordeal. We got more chairs. More wine glasses, too. We began making meatballs ahead of time and freezing them. We capped the guest list at ten adults and as many children as can play well together without too much supervision. And we stopped worrying about making everything perfect. Our parents and grandparents, we realized, hadn't made a big deal about hosting family dinners; it was just something they did. It was normal. After a few weeks it started to feel normal for us, too. I jettisoned any visions I might have had about cloth napkins and Pinterest crafts and began to relax.
Part of the fun of hosting a weekly dinner is the rotating cast of characters. We have our beloved regulars, but the mix is always different. Seinfeld's George Costanza famously flipped over his "worlds colliding"—friends from one sphere of life mixing with friends from another—but today, social media has our worlds colliding on a regular basis as coworkers, college friends, and conservative uncles argue politics on Facebook threads.
This isn't a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, of course; Shabbat dinners, Sunday suppers, Ramadan iftars, and the like are cherished all over the world. But in late-capitalist America, it can be hard to find community. The institutions that used to provide communal social life, like churches and unions, have long been in decline. People work long hours, often with long commutes or multiple jobs. An increasing number of us are freelancers, working from home without company. Social events aren't always hospitable for families with young children, and those who don't have kids can go years without even interacting with them. And with an economy that's really only recovered for a wealthy few, many Americans are more likely to down a burger in the drive-thru on the way to a second job than to sit down around a family table.
Friday Night Meatballs is intergenerational, kid-friendly, low-key, and cheap. You don't have to join anything: the biggest obligation it asks you to shoulder is showing up with a dessert or a bottle of wine. And it even has a hashtag."
What do you think? Do you think this is as cool as I do? Or is this one of those things that people have been doing forever that I just haven't picked up on? I think things like this should happen more often.

Photo from Kinfolk Magazine

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