Hosting a weekly dinner doesn't sound revolutionary, but writer and editor Sarah Grey found the habit changed her life. She created the dinners, called Friday Night Meatballs, in 2013 to battle the isolation she feels working from home and to make time for a social life, which faded after having her daughter, Lucia. The payoffs, including a stronger sense of community and a weekly dose of stress relief, have been extraordinary for her family.
After nine months of hosting the dinners, she wrote a beautiful piece about them for Serious Eats which instantly went viral. Now, she hears from people all over the world who have been inspired to have similar dinners. I recently caught up with Sarah to get some of her hard-earned hosting lessons, especially in light of the current political climate. Her tips:
Invite people who will keep it fun. Sarah loves bringing together disparate groups of people and those with diverse viewpoints. To make sure the night is relaxing for everyone, however, she draws the line at bigotry to ensure all guests feel safe.
Invite kids if you can. "It's hard to get too serious when you're interrupted by a little stampede of people coming downstairs to make a blanket tent," she says.
Ask friends to bring sides, drinks, and desserts. Keep it easy on yourself and make it a potluck, of sorts.
Be prepared for dietary restrictions. While meatballs with pasta are always on the menu, Sarah keeps a box of falafel mix on hand for vegetarians and gluten-free pasta for those who can't eat the usual stuff. She says making these items part of her pantry keeps it easy for everyone.
Wait until dessert to discuss politics. By the time people have eaten dinner, they've found common ground, so there's a lot less rancor when sensitive or challenging subjects are discussed.