Around this time last year I started to write an entertaining cookbook — a book for the days and evenings when we gather to eat together.
Many people in the publishing world believe that entertaining is a tired topic, but I think we just need to re-think the term. Writing this book was a great opportunity to do just that. Not only was it an exhaustingly fun way to collect some of my favorite dishes for having people over, but it forced me to think about what it truly means to entertain.
Maybe it's the word that's the problem. "Entertaining" sounds intimidating, a major household event to get prepared for. But for me, gathering people to eat is not just something I do on weekends with matching cloth napkins — it's what I do every single day when I cook for myself and my family. In most cases, it's a deep offering to nurture people's bodies and souls, and personally I wish it didn't share a word that also describes frivolous stuff on television.
Entertaining, to me, is really the whole experience of a meal; from the shopping, to the music you play when you chop onions, to being able to tell your guests who grew that carrot or this piece of meat (or to wonder together where it all came from), to the tipsy game of charades after dessert. That's what I see in my mind when I hear the word "entertaining."
The social interaction that surrounds a meal feeds the soul; we tell tales and seek advice, we laugh and cry, we learn and teach, and sometimes we even fall in love around chopping blocks and dinner tables.
So when you think of "entertaining" in the context of cooking, what do you think of? And if the image that comes first is a planned-out dinner party with place cards and a stressful day of cooking, can I convince you otherwise?
If we gather to eat every day, then entertaining is life, and most of the time life is pretty entertaining.
• More about my book: Good Food To Share: Recipes for Entertaining with Family & Friends by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan (Weldon-Owen), Williams-Sonoma or pre-order from Amazon
(Images: Ray Kachatorian from Good Food To Share)