March 3, 2024

Cultured Tips Issue 1: On Gatherings

Within my previous writing, I stated the concern of lacking connection during mealtimes. It would be far from pragmatic of me to state such a thing without giving some advice to combat it. In most cases, simply inviting a friend to share a meal with you, or setting a time to eat with your family would suffice. With these actions you can find yourself in good company quickly, so long as you hold worthwhile companions. What of occasions outside your direct groups though? Perhaps you just moved into a new area and want to impress people you’ve met, or are gathering old friends that you haven’t seen in a while. Both situations would require some kind of entertainment, or collaboration. Such things would easily stoke conversations and loosen inhibitions. In this mindset, I will give you some recommendations from what I have learned through the industry, as well as my familial experience. 

Out of all the techniques you could use, one that is known for its immediate grasping of attention is tableside service. This doesn’t mean that you must don the responsibility of a butler, quite the contrary. It would mean that you engage your guests with a show of what food you’re about to eat. This can be accomplished simply too. Taking the preparation for a dish that can be assembled in minutes after, and waiting for your guests. Something like a salad is a great example of a recipe you would use for this. You could also slice and serve a protein, like steak or whole poultry, as a tableside affair. It may require some timing and practice to fit seamlessly in the event, but is rather easy nonetheless.

     Another method that can help instigate some sociality is a group event. The best practice is to allocate a task to your participants that will be served with dinner. Something like the mason jar comes in handy for this. Simply fill halfway with heavy cream, salt to taste, and tighten the lid as much as you can. Hand it to any house guest and have them start shaking, passing it around when they get tired. About ten minutes later, given your guests are full of vigor, you will have salted butter. You only need to pour out the buttermilk and shake it with ice cold water to clean it, then you can serve. You could mix this with a tableside experience to make it more enthralling. Say, making an herb butter just before a steak is carved, or a vinaigrette while a salad is being made. The possibilities are numerous with a little ingenuity.

There is a certain game you have to play while discerning what method would best enthuse your guests. For instance, with a group of younger people, you would have good results with simply pouring a couple of drinks. It could be as simple as a beer with burgers, or as complex as finely crafted cocktails. Both would have the communal effect in no time. Now, this isn’t my favorite tactic, as inebriation is a one trick pony that spirals very quickly when overdone. I enjoy sharing a beverage or five with my friends, but there are many bad times that can come with it too. If there are quite a couple of older guests, you might not want to have them shaking a jar. With younger participants, it’s usually not a great idea to keep them waiting for food. If you already know that your guests wouldn’t like any fanfare as described here, use your imagination to discern what they might enjoy. A good rule of thumb is to avoid frivolous activities, such as television or movies. As long as you put forward an effort, people are often willing to meet you halfway, and get involved with the gathering. 

I hope that these recommendations assist you in your endeavors. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to follow my examples, you are more than welcome to try something that you think will be a hit. You may even be able to start a tradition of your own. With that in mind, go forth, and do your diligence. Use these tactics to help and return your people to the hearth, and help kindle it for the generations to come.