Want to be a better man this year? Take the reins, invite some friends over and cook them a meal. To be a gentleman is to be a consummate host. You don’t have to call it a “dinner party.” But that’s what we’re talking about here.
According to Brendan Francis Newnam and Rico Gagliano, the authors of Brunch Is Hell (and hosts of the hit podcast The Dinner Party Download), dinner parties can serve as the very cornerstone of a healthy modern society. “It’s where friends new and old share food, debate ideas, and boldly build hangovers together. If we revive the fading art of throwing dinner parties the world will be better off, and our country might heal its wounds of endless division.” Or at the very least, we’ll all have a nice time and thoughtful conversation.
Yes, you’ll spring for the food and do the cooking (maybe you’ve got a willing partner who can help). But there will be numerous benefits for you too. You get to practice your cooking skills, while showing off your place and taste in music. For those of us who felt sequestered away during the height of the pandemic, this is a return to socializing and the art of conversation.
And if you’re worried about how you’ll pull off the perfect spread of beautiful food on a well-designed table, don’t be. This doesn’t have to be a fancy affair you stress over. Besides, if you’re stressed, your guest will no doubt pick up on that energy and not be comfortable either. Your friends aren’t expecting an Instagram-ready tablescape. They’ll be grateful you wanted them over and offered to cook for them. Newnam and Gagliano offer a helpful thought: “Ultimately, nobody cares … you’re inviting people over for free food and drinks. It’s pretty much social bribery.”
Want an easy cheat? Order pizza for the main dish. All you have to do is pick up a few bottles of wine, make a big salad and have some garlic bread warming in the oven when your guests arrive. Because according to our experts, the food is the least important part of any dinner party. “Giving homemade food to your guests is a metaphor for sharing and openness. Gathering around a table to consume it is a metaphor for community. Eating it in unison is a metaphor for mutual understanding. And you’ll be evoking these metaphors even if your baked salmon is overcooked … the food is only there to get people to chill together.”
If you feel like you’ve lost touch with some people, this is the perfect opportunity to reengage with them. We’re all guilty of not making much effort when it comes to sustaining friendships. This is where you step up and take the lead. You don’t have to send out invites. And it doesn’t have to be awkward. You can just mention it to your coworker or send someone a text: “Hey, I’m gonna have some people over for dinner on Saturday … want to come?”
As the host, you’re a creator. You’re a giver not merely a consumer. That generosity is good for you, not just karmically speaking, but actually physically. According to researchers at Stony Brook University, when we’re generous our brains release several chemicals that give us a sense of joy and peace. And that kind of feeling is contagious. When we feel good, we’re better at making those around us feel good, too.
Don’t underestimate how good hosting can make you feel. It not only adds some spontaneity to life and breaks up an otherwise routine weekend, it gives you a chance to flex your social courage. We’re all a bit rusty on social graces these days. Leading a dinner party comes with some risks, but the anticipation and resulting conversation pays off in dividends. Research has continually shown that when we talk with friends (especially for a sustained period) our stress is reduced and our memory skills improve. Who doesn’t want that? The only real concern is whether or not your guests will offer to help clean up.