I’m beginning to plan for two upcoming gatherings that are centered around food. I can’t quite say they are both dinner parties, as one is another of my Blooming Table gatherings where we will be engaging in the art of putting bouquets together. The other is a proper sit down meal. Both however, contain the 5 elements that are essential to a memorable, engaged and soul feeding experience.
1. Intentional Invocation
This is first and most important. Whether you pray or not, whether you believe in a higher power or not, energy and intention are very real things. What do you intend for this gathering? Nourishment? Connection? Fun? Healing? A warm moment in time when you and your loved ones can gather in peace and joy with one another to catch up? Name it, claim it and whisper it over the entire evening like a soft blanket.
This isn’t crazy juju, this is soul and love, and very very necessary. This is what you do when you begin to plan for the event, whether it’s a party or a usual weeknight dinner. This is what you hold in you heart and mind as you begin to prepare the menu, the invite list, the dishes you cook and the table you set. Intentional invocations shift how you approach what you do, it clears the air of anything else but this one thing you intend, and though no one else has to know, the space you offer them will be imbued by it.
Music sets the mood for everything. Any tone, beat, emotion you want to evoke, music is the easiest way to evoke it. Instrumental, ambient, cool jazz, deep soulful grooves like Ray LaMontagne or Chet Baker, or even a bit of nu-folk, it’s all up to you and the scene you want to set. Keep it low and in the background and it will lend the perfect back drop to your gathering.
I love to have my iPhone hooked up to the house speakers and set to one of my Pandora playlists or one of my iTune playlists that I’ve made over time. The great thing about a service like Pandora is that once you create a genre or band channel, it will play indefinitely with all sorts of songs in that category for as long as you want. If you don’t subscribe to the service, you’ll have commercial interruptions. If that’s cost prohibitive, I recommend an iTunes playlist you compile long before the dinner party as a practice in setting a very intentional vibe for your evening.
These are not the only options however, lately, I’ve been exploring Spotify as well. Now, all of these are phone or computer dependent. If you’re old school, CDs or vinyl are also an option, but the later would require some DJ’ing and changing out records, which could break the rhythm of the evening and stop being something lovely in the back ground. You don’t want your attention as host or guest to be pulled away every hour or so to change the music.
3. Pre-meal Nosh
This is the one dish or dishes I always have done before the guests arrive. It’s nice having something ready and waiting so people can nosh while hanging out with you in the kitchen and waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. Like a warm up, it starts to warm up the body and the taste buds, transitioning each of you into the meal.
A smooth and easy red and white wine is always a good bet, especially if you’re going to go with crackers, fruit and cheeses, but these days, I’ve started to pick a single cocktail or specialty drink just for the first half of the evening or gathering.
4. Still Be Cooking
We live in a time when thankfully… wonderfully… gloriously perhaps, the kitchen has replaced the den as the gathering family room. When your guests arrive, include them in the cooking, serve your appetizers, serve your pre meal vino or cocktails IN the kitchen. Let the making of food happen over the happy conversations of friends connecting, whether they help in the food preparation or not.
This might sound like something quite casual and informal, and I say yes to this. Even if your event is of a more formal variety, nothing beats the artistry of bringing together amazing dishes while socializing with friends who will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, be totally enthralled in every single thing you do in the preparing of their meal. On a deeper level, as the cook, you’re alchemizing the ingredients that will bring the diners together, connect them to each other, to you and to the experience for the evening.
In short, they get to watch you create magic, whether they know it or not, and a very real and deep part of their souls recognizes this.
Your set table is the first anticipatory peek your guest will have at the evening ahead. It serves as a living altar for what you will be doing together. This coupled with the background music and the smells coming from your kitchen ushers your diners into the space with a message of love, care and celebration. Nothing elaborate is required, though certainly you could go that route. Color, settings, candles, lighting, centerpieces of freshly cut flowers and vines can add to your decor.
I personally love gathering images of table settings in Pinterest for ideas. Check it: Gatherings Board
Do you have your own “Musts” for a mindful gathering? Share them here in the comments section.
Summer Howard says
Elena, You are giving me so much to think about. My gatherings are usually in the warm-weather seasons when the kiddos can run around outside and the camp chairs are set up. I’m not sure how I can mix these vibes together…I think just paying more attention to the details, instead of *Always* flying by the seat of my pants will be a good start. Thanks!
Great Tips! I booked marked this for future reference 🙂
Elena, You are a woman after my own heart. I couldn’t agree more with all of your practical and soulful suggestions…especially…still be cooking. That’s part of the fun and sets the tone for the rest of the evening. Such a pleasant switch from having everything done and ready ahead of time – which feels empty by comparison. Thank you for putting this out there.