Entertaining at home with friends is one of life’s small pleasures and is, even today, more popular than ever for a multiplicity of reasons. Entertaining at home is attaining more attention these days due to current economic climes and so now is the time to start thinking of how to achieve the best and economically sound results.

Ever heard of the “The Five P’s”? It is a desperately important factor in a successful dinner party. (It stands for Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance). One cannot prepare enough in order to make things go smoothly. Simple factors like… have you chosen the wines well enough? Have you plenty of exciting non alcoholic drinks for the drivers and Tee-Totallers? Also… music. Have you done your homework on the musical tastes of your guests? A balanced menu is most important with a variety of tasty and memorable dishes. Have you planned for any special dietary requirements of your friends? Speaking as a time-served Vegetarian (40 years!), I have been put on the spot when being asked to stay for lunch or supper when the host has reeled in horror at my “habits”. You can see a pallor come over them as they panic. “Well you could have this… there’s not much meat in it” they say, hopefully!

Another success factor is choosing the right guests. One must endeavor to select carefully. There is no point in inviting people who are likely not to get on with each other, this could cause a catastrophe in the well planned evening! When you have chosen your guests, aim to seat certain people together who in your mind, go well together. If you know that someone drinks heavily at dinner (and we all know someone who does… especially if the wine is on free-flow!) then perhaps you should think again about inviting them, as this could ruin the event.

Conversation

Apart from the meal, the most important characteristic of a successful time is the exchange of conversation. Good conversation makes for great time had by all. So aim to choose a few subjects which you know have at least some common ground with everyone present. Carefully interject with a subject during a conversation and it is amazing how quickly the conversation takes shape! Also have a few subjects up your sleeve which are likely to create a reaction (a good one) so that those stymied and “tumbleweed” moments, when the conversation reduces to an awkward silence, can be prevented. It’s not a good idea to let the conversation turn into a joke telling event but sometimes it pays off when it all goes quiet. (Keep it clean).

People do have a habit of telling short stories about what happened to them. You mention that “you were stopped by Police whilst driving home the other day” and in moments all the others are telling stories about their encounters. A story about a rude Supermarket Assistant… and suddenly everyone has had a bad supermarket experience. To be quite honest, nobody actually cares about what happened to other people, they simply talk about themselves, as this can be the most interesting subject they know of! (And the easiest to talk about I suppose).

Entertaining

Entertaining with friends, obviously not a recent activity, has now become an immeasurable attribute of our relaxation time. Entertaining at home is far less expensive than you might care to imagine. It is cheaper in most respects and yes indeed… you can actually have a Cigarette after the meal (if a smoking household of course) without anyone suing you!

Whilst drinks are obviously far cheaper at home it can mean that more drinks are available for your guests. More choice and variety or better quality at least. Consider entertaining at home more often. You will be surprised as to how an excellent host you can be. For many, entertaining at home is the better choice, and I couldn’t be of the same mind more as I have experienced some wonderful get-togethers with friends over the years.

Obviously the best route to a successful evening is to have someone else do the work for you. A Chef friend of mine developed a highly successful business, running dinner parties for other people. He prepares everything from the invitations to the washing up and polishing the glasses! The food and wine is chosen with the hosts, tastings are done, table decor arranged, staff employed… so the hosts may sit back and simply enjoy.