With today’s fast-paced, busy lifestyles, meals have become an afterthought. Food is something we grab in the drive-thru line and quickly eat in the car on the way to soccer practice. Or, we bring the food home, plop down on the couch and stream a movie while we eat, night after night after night. We’ve completely forgotten about food’s incredible ability to connect us to each other.
Sharing a meal with others has always been more about the people gathered around the table than the food itself. But since the meal serves as the reason to invite family and friends into your home, it’s important to select dishes that will delight taste buds as well as stimulate heartfelt conversations.
Choosing a meal doesn’t have to be an intimidating task. Keep the following ideas in mind the next time you host a dinner party and you’ll be amazed at how effortlessly the conversation flows around the table.
Pick a dish that’s meaningful to you
You know that tried-and-true chicken casserole that you’ve fixed a hundred times? One of the reasons you repeatedly return to this easy-to-make dish is your grandmother fixed it for you almost every time you visited. It was your favorite meal growing up, and just one bite can transport you into fond memories. Fix this meal, along with a sensible salad, and share stories about those summer days with your grandmother. Encourage your guests to discuss their favorite meals and the memories attached to them.
Pick a recipe that you’ve recently learned how to cook
Don’t let the dinner party be the first time you prepare a dish, but maybe you’ve tried that molasses and brie pork tenderloin several times and want to share it with friends and family. You’ve mastered this fairly easy, yet sophisticated main entrée and your guests will be wildly impressed. Serve with complementary sides like mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Talk about how you first came across the recipe and your attempts to perfect it. Invite your party-goers to discuss new recipes they’ve recently tried or want to try.
Pick a meal that coincides with the next holiday
Having a get-together near the Fourth of July? Then consider hosting a good old-fashioned summer cookout. Grill up classics like hamburgers and hot dogs or go for tender and juicy grilled chicken and barbecue ribs. Serve with essential sides like baked beans and potato salad. Add a fresh blackberry pie and ice cream for dessert. Ask guests to talk about their holiday traditions and to share amusing anecdotes.
Pick food from a county that you’ve visited
Delicious food can be found in any culture around the world. Perhaps you traveled to India on vacation and discovered amazing dishes that you want to recreate for family and friends. Pick a flavorful main course, such as tandoori chicken or baingan bharta—a vegetarian dish made with mashed eggplant and other chopped vegetables and spices. Pair these spicy dishes with naan—Indian flatbread—or basmati rice. As you sit around the table enjoying the food, regale your guests with stories from your travels. Let your guests chat about places they’ve traveled to or want to travel to. Share travel tips and tricks with each other.
No matter what cuisine you settle on for your dinner party, make sure to choose something that will help spark unique and intimate conversations with your visitors. Because ultimately, it’s all about making lasting connections with the people around us.