“Invest in the human family. Invest in people.
Build a little community of those you love and who love you.”
—Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
Let’s put Mitch’s words of wisdom into action! Hosting a casual gathering is a cinch—but let’s up the ante by carving out a few hours each and every week to gather with friends over a home cooked meal. Eating together is an intimate, bonding act that has brought people together since the beginning of time. Food has a powerful way of connecting best friends with new friends, young friends with old friends.
Here are a few tried and true tips on starting and maintaining a weekly supper club.
Map out logistics.
As the hostess you have to cover your "w" bases: who, what, where, when. Who will be invited? What will be prepared? Where will it be served? When will it be consumed? As the hostess you are in control, so pick a day and a time that works best with your weekly schedule. The size of the gathering is up to you and know that weekly attendance will likely ebb-and-flow. An intimate 2-3 person evening is just as great as a large group of friends as long as you are gathering on a weekly basis—that’s what counts.
My husband and I host a weekly dinner on Sunday evenings at 6 p.m. at our home. We end every weekend on a high note with full bellies and happy hearts surrounded by the people we love most.
From old-fashioned phone calls to chic Paperless post invites, use whatever form of communication your guests will be most responsive to. I blast out a group email over the weekend and then individually text those who don’t check their digital inboxes to make sure they are aware. If you are unsure how your guests want to be notified, simply ask for a preferred method of communication.
Commitment is key!
Consistency is key to maintaining weekly gatherings. Instead of cancelling one week due to a schedule restraint, pass the torch to a frequent dinner guest so she can play hostess for the week. Keeping the plan consistent—same day, same time, same guest list—will help keep this weekly gathering on track. Like any new habit, one blip in the routine and you may stop hosting all together. Avoid this pitfall by having a back up hostess for the weeks you are unable to host.
Make it potluck.
What’s genius about potlucks—besides the variety of dishes, flavors, and ingredients— is you always end up with just the right amount of food, no matter the head count. Using a potluck method puts less stress on you as the hostess and eliminates the need for RSVPs. Trust me, it’s all in the magic of potlucks! It just always works out. Bonus: As the hostess you usually score the homemade leftovers, which you can pack for lunch the next day!
Or, try themed a potluck.
Stick with the potlucks, but every once in a while mix things up a bit by hosting a theme potluck. For example, try taco night—you can be in charge of grilled chicken or braised pork and have your guests bring the supporting ingredients: tortillas, salsa, guacamole, cilantro, sour cream, onions, queso fresco, cerveza. If you are going with a themed meal, sometimes it’s best to delegate out what your guests can bring to make sure you have all the bases covered.
Some great collaborative meals include: bruschetta bar, build your own burgers, baked potato bar, or pizza night. Want to skip the cooking all together one week? Check out my guide on How to Build the Ultimate Cheese Board, and ask everyone bring over a wedge of cheese with their favorite accouterment! Done and done.
As the hostess, be flexible.
Your guests might be late, guests may not show up, or some might bring a friend unannounced, you might end up with a meal of four different salads, or one entrée and three desserts—that's all OK! Roll with it. Embrace the unexpected. After all, this is a casual gathering with friends.
As the guest, contribute any way you can.
Did you run out of time to prepare a dish because work ran late? Swing by the local bakery to pick up a loaf of fresh bread or the corner liquor store for a bottle of wine. Feeling uninspired in the kitchen? Splurge on a nice bar of chocolate to share after the meal. Is money tight this particular month? Pick a posy of flowers from your neighborhood for the dinner table or offer to do the dishes and tidy up the home at the end of the gathering. No matter what, there is always some way to contribute to the weekly supper club, even as a guest.
Like any new routine, establishing a rhythm may take a few weeks before the habit sticks. Over time, the logistics will fall into place and hosting will become second nature. Maintaining casual weekly gatherings strengthens friendships and nourishes the mind, body, and soul. Community is everything and time is finite—you might as well spend it with the ones you love!
Originally published on The Everygirl
April 11, 2016