If the idea of a dinner party sends you into a spiral of menu planning, linen ironing, and wine glass shining before hosting friends and family for dinner, then let me please introduce you to Crappy Dinner Parties. Crappy dinner parties are the kind of casual meals we reserve for our closet friends and family, when we eat delivery pizza from paper plates, or buffet-style potlucks in Grandma's rec room.
Crappy dinner parties are also known as scruffy hospitality and encompass everything from pasta on paper plates to your very best cooking efforts eaten around a coffee table.
More on "scruffy hospitality": Why Scruffy Hospitality Creates Space for Friendship at Knox Priest
1. Don't write off Mondays.
Monday is one of my favorite nights to host friends and family and here's why: You have all weekend to enjoy, pick up the house (if you want), prepare as little or as much as you want in advance, but you also give your guests something to look forward to. Monday is usually met with such dread, but if you have dinner with friends planned for that evening after work, you have a reason to be excited for Monday instead.
2. Don't clean the whole house.
A clean home is a source of pride, but it's also an obstacle for many of us who aspire to host dinners more often. Truthfully, guests notice less mess than homeowners, so for weeknight entertaining focus on three major sore spots and leave the rest as is.
- Make sure the bathroom is wiped clean and stocked with soap and a hand towel.
- Clear clutter from the table or counters where food will be shared.
- Vacuum the floors around the sofa and coffee table — especially if you'll be using this area for dining.
3. Don't even think about wine pairing.
Wine pairing can feel like a very sophisticated art, but please don't let analysis paralysis on wine serving keep you from hosting your friends and family. Grab a bottle of red, a bottle of white, and some juice boxes for the kids. This will make most guests happy. Make sure there is water for everyone to drink, too.
4. Don't plan an elaborate menu.
Your guests are coming over to enjoy your company and conversation; they aren't worried about whether there are enough side dishes or if the salad dressing complements the entrée, so you shouldn't either. I've found a lot of success in preparing a large volume of one or two key elements — such as a big pot of pasta and a big salad — and outsourcing or eliminating the rest. Keep it simple.
My Favorite Crappy Dinner Menu
5. Don't dress to impress.
"Come as you are" is a welcome invitation as well as good rule of thumb for both dressing and setting the table for scruffy hospitality. Make sure there are enough clean glasses, plates, and cups, and put out a pile of napkins. Cloth napkins and silverware have their place, but there is some joy in using paper products — a hallmark of scruffy entertaining — that you can trash (or compost) after guests leave.
Throw your own crappy dinner party: 5 Rules for Hosting a Crappy Dinner Party (and Seeing Your Friends More Often)
What kind of scruffy hospitality do you practice? What are your favorite meals for crappy dinner parties?