The table is set, you are putting your hand to the final decorations, adjusting a flower here, a knife there. You pause and think of the evening ahead of you. How will it be? Will people enjoy it? What can you do to assure a nice dinner for everyone?
A man once asked the question- ’Are you known for your good dinners or for your enjoyable dinners?’ What is the difference? Is it not the same thing? It is a good question, and it does not mean the same thing. A good dinner would refer to the food, how delicious and palatable it was. But an enjoyable dinner refers to the atmosphere, the company, the topics discussed. In other words, the first refers to something tangible – the food. While food is very important at a dinner, being known for your good dinners might say something about you as a host. Cooking is an art, it must be learned and takes time. To prepare a good dinner is not without effort, both in time and money. But a hired cook can do the same, if not better. As regards creating an enjoyable dinner, with a good atmosphere, it also takes a lot of effort. Depending on the diversity of your guests, and the number of them, it can be quite a challenge. Are you up to it? Can you cope with potential mine fields? Here is how to do it.
Prepare beforehand by reviewing the guest-list. Is there anyone with strong political views? Religious? Are there any topics that should be avoided completely? It is seldom good for digestion to have heated discussions on politics and religion. Few things can antagonize people like these issues. Preparing for a few topics that would interest the majority might be a good idea. Read the daily newspapers, check out some book-reviews. Maybe you could read that book everybody is talking about, mark some quotes that might interest your guests. Learn a bit about the author. In this way you will enjoy yourself more, too. Just make sure you are not dominating the whole conversation, you don’t want to seem arrogant and bragging. Give space to your guests. Your role as a host is to lead the crowds, gently encourage them to go in a certain direction (or, sometimes, away from a sensitive topic).
Does anyone of the guests have a special interest? Flowers and cars? Traveling or photography? Read up on these subjects, then with careful questions you might get him involved in the conversation, contributing with his special field of knowledge. Think beforehand of some ways of directing the discussion to another topic after some time, a transitional question perhaps, or something you have read. With the internet it is easy to know a little about a lot. You do not have to be an expert, just know enough to be able to talk about it.
This does not mean that you should orchestrate the whole dinner-party, planning everything beforehand. It is not a play to direct. Many times conversation flows by itself in a steady, pleasurable wave. All this preparation is in case things go stale, or in case an argument is about to erupt. You also have to relax and enjoy your dinner, after all you worked hard to prepare it, in more ways than one. Your guests will notice if you are happy with their company, if you are at ease.
Spending time with other people is important, it satisfies a need in humans. It can also be very pleasurable. Eating is also a human need. When the food is good it also satisfies our finer senses of taste and appreciation, we are not just eating for survival! We choose food and drink for our dinner parties with great care. In like manner, put in a little bit of preparation for the atmosphere and you can become know for your enjoyable dinners as well as your delicious food!