As everyone knows, food is the social glue that holds everything together… well, at least when it comes to entertaining. Gathering without grub is possible, of course, but it just makes everything so much better, so why go without it? The only problem arises when social pressure steps in and everyone feels they have to one-up the last person who hosted supper club, sparking a never-ending spiral towards ever more lavish and extravagant spreads of signature cocktails, blinis with caviar and frankly, dishes with ingredients you’ve never heard of. Enough is enough. Let’s get back to the simple, people.
As I remind readers regularly in my book, Wabi-Sabi Welcome (see parts I, II, and III of this series), gathering together is about way more than just impressing one another with your expensive wine taste or exotic-looking squid ink-dyed spaghetti. Let’s all do each other a favor and remember that lots of good things can happen at the table (or in the backyard or on a picnic blanket) even when all you’ve got in front of you is a bit of bread and water.
So take a chill pill on the overboard smorgasbords (unless haute cuisine really is your passion—in which case we’ll give you a pass) and pick up these low-key tips on all it takes to make a great table that everyone will be talking about. And for those afraid of approaching the kitchen whatsoever, just remember it doesn’t take much to make an occasion worth enjoying: a platter of peaches, a baguette and some cheese or a glass of crisp, summery rosé.
This one’s pretty straightforward, but at the heart of it is the idea that modest food that fills us up (physically or emotionally) is just as noteworthy as all that Instagram eye candy. So never fear sticking to a simple cup of tea (no, it doesn’t need to be a hand-whisked matcha latte or what have you), a bowl of oatmeal or a one-pot meal like stew when you have guests over. Just the act of sharing a meal in your home—whatever it may be—can be revolutionary.
I.e. don’t clutter the table with every dining-related tchotchke you’ve ever collected. Rather, let the food be the main event (mostly) while leaving room for just a special addition or two—like a single lit taper, a bowl of persimmons or a series of pretty pears running down the table.
Eating with our hands is just about as simple and primal as it gets, and it makes for a wonderfully casual (and delightfully messy) gathering. So break out the tacos, pizza, gyros, hummus and dips or whatever finger foods you’re into, and forget the flatware.
This one has less to do with what you’re eating and where and rather how you take in the experience. Sunrise and sunset are crucial parts of our days, and yet too often these moments go unnoticed in the fray of daily life. Gathering during these magical times when everything is light and glowy (yes, even if it’s the crack of dawn) gives us special pause and heightens our time together.
This little tidbit comes straight from the French, who excel at wringing every bit of pleasure out of each thing they eat and drink—and they certainly don’t skimp on using the real stuff: thick, foamy cream, orangey-yolked eggs, salty butter, rich chocolate, savory herbs and so on. The point is, if you’re going to gather and eat together, you might as well make it count. Cook with the most simple, unadulterated ingredients you can, and focus on the flavors rather than counting calories, carbs and cholesterol.
As everyone knows by now, we are what we eat, and wouldn’t you rather be a brilliantly red tomato or a midnight-hued fig than just about anything blandly beige? In short, fill your plates with colorful, seasonal foods whenever you can and your table will naturally come to life.
This might be most important of all. We Americans have a habit of rushing through nearly everything because there’s always something else to move on to—but there’s an art to idling around the table and savoring the moment. So put away those pesky phones, settle in for a while and bask in the beauty of just being together.
Buy the full book, Wabi-Sabi Welcome: Learning to embrace the imperfect and entertain with thoughtfulness and ease →