"We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink." Epicurus
Everyone has heard how important the family meal is every evening. Most of us have holiday traditions in which a big, multi-course meal is the centerpiece of the event. Instinctively, we all understand that good times with family and friends are enhanced with food and drink. But I think the appeal of group dining goes beyond the mere consumption of roasts and pies.
What I have started to notice recently is that even when it’s not a holiday, if you make the meal a little bit special, people will sit around the table long after the food has been consumed. Here are some ways to keep good times at your table after your guests have taken their last bite:
Invite friends – I don’t mean just a formal invitation, though that’s fine too. But take advantage of every opportunity that comes to your way to ask someone to stay for a meal. A new face will add to the atmosphere and provide new conversation. (Plus no one will bring up unpleasant subjects.)
- Make one special dish – This is important even if you’re not a great cook. You don’t need to produce a five-course gourmet meal. (I have never produced a five-course gourmet meal. Perish the thought.)
But anyone you are serving will appreciate the thought and effort if you make one of their favorites dishes. If you aren't a big fan of cooking, look for simple recipes that can become special for your family. At my house, for example, we do a make-your-own-pizza night which is always popular. You can top brownies with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge for a super-easy dessert. (We're talking good times here, not calories.)
- Eat in the dining room – I will admit my dining room often serves as a storage room. I keep the pads on the table permanently, since that large expanse is a too-enticing repository for shin guards, extra jackets and shopping bags. But I’ve started serving dinner there on random nights. Yes, it is more work. A cloth tablecloth and napkins must be laundered, it’s an extra floor to clean, etc. But it is well worth it, because, in the dining room, everyone lingers.
- Resist the urge to clean up – Yes, you must do it eventually. You can clear the table after the main course if you are serving dessert. But when all the food has been served, any attempt to clear the table will result in the end of your meal. (I think it’s because those who do not intend to help must escape the area.)
The opening quote is from Epicurus, a Greek philosopher whose name is now synonymous with fine dining and luxurious living. But his real philosophy is summed up in the quote. Enjoy your friends, live simply (not lavishly) and happiness can be yours.
I can’t guarantee all that. But I will say if you try some of these things, you will have people enjoying your table long after the meal is consumed. And that’s an indulgence to me.