Friday Night Meatballs
March 30, 2015 2:00 PM   Subscribe

The Power of Real-Life Friendships
Late in 2013, Sarah Grey, 34, was going stir-crazy as a work-from-home writer and mom in Philadelphia. “We were just collapsing onto the couch at the end of every day to watch TV,” she recalls. “We never saw friends and barely even talked to our neighbors.” So Grey took to Facebook with a post that has since gone viral: “Starting next Friday, we’re cooking up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs every Friday night and sitting down at the dining room table as a family—along with anyone else who’d like to join us. Friends, neighbors, relatives, clients, Facebook friends who’d like to hang out in real life, travelers passing through: you are welcome at our table,” she wrote.
“You can bring something, but you don’t have to. The house will be messy.…This is our little attempt to spend more time with our village.” It was a smash hit. Now the idea has gone global, and on her site, FridayNightMeatballs.com, Grey is inundated with stories of folks following suit. “I’ve realized that all over the world, people are working more, doing what they have to do to get by—and losing connection with one another in the process.” says Grey.
More on Friday Night Meatballs:

How to Change Your Life With Pasta
The Simplicity and Beauty of Sharing a Meal with Friends
Featured in a sermon on community-building (link skips directly to the relevant part).
posted by graymouser (86 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hope I'm not being too snarky, but how is this different than a normal, casual dinner party? We live in a strange time where everything needs to be branded with a website and a media campaign.
posted by the jam at 2:09 PM on March 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


Wow! I want to follow her example now.
posted by carmicha at 2:10 PM on March 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I have a small apartment that isn't conducive to having large amounts of people over, but the slightly smaller scale version of this that I did was Dinner and Dishwashing. It was, in some ways, a method of coping with the ending of a long relationship where my partner and I alternated nights for who cooked and who did the dishes; and I realized that I missed cooking for someone else.

So, the premise was simple. Pick a month, my friend, and for every week of that month, either you come over to my place and I'll make you dinner, or I come over to your place and you make me dinner. In exchange, if you make me dinner, I'll do your dishes. Or you wash my dishes, if I make you dinner.

It was a nice tradition, but as 'the jam' said, I didn't feel compelled to make a social media campaign out of it because I'm an introverted, picky, elitist bastard who didn't want to deal with acquaintances asking me why they're not good enough to wash my dishes.
posted by bl1nk at 2:14 PM on March 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


The jam: you usually invite specific people to a dinner party. This is an open house, with help from social media.
posted by argybarg at 2:15 PM on March 30, 2015 [23 favorites]


The whole open thing is what I think draws people to the idea. They literally have anyone from Facebook over (up to a reasonable number) any given Friday.
posted by graymouser at 2:17 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bike messengers in Chicago used to have chili night all winter; same day, same time, different host every time. Host provides a pot of chili, everyone else provides beer/chips/cheese/desserts/snacks/cornbread/other chilis.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:20 PM on March 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh, yeah, I read this article several months back and it inspired me to do something similar. I decided to have a semi-open dinner invitation every Thursday night, through all of 2015. I've missed a few weeks, but it's been going well overall - it's been a full house every week but one.

And yeah, it's basically just a dinner party, except instead of specifically inviting specific people for a specific occasion, you just make a regular thing of it, and people show up when they feel like it. That makes the whole thing feel less formal; it's just dinner. Some people show up early with a bottle of wine and stay for hours afterward chatting and catching up; other people just show up, have dinner, and head back out again after. It's all good and I love the happy community feeling it brings my house.

This is one of the big reasons I took the hit and bought a house, after all, instead of just continuing to live free and easy in an apartment: I wanted to create a social space of my own, instead of relying on my friends all the time, or on going out to bars. But formal dinner parties are too much work to manage every week - this semi-open invite business is way simpler, and so it is much easier to make it a regular part of life.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:21 PM on March 30, 2015 [28 favorites]


One of my FB friends does this - I find it very welcoming and just plain nice. She's in another city from me, so I haven't made it yet, but hope I'll manage some day.
posted by mumimor at 2:21 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Come to my Dinner Party™
posted by ReeMonster at 2:22 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


How do people deal with not knowing how many people to cook for? It would drive me nuts!
posted by Omnomnom at 2:23 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


omnomnom: I just tell people there's a limit of 8 people and they have to reply with a "yes I'm coming this week" if they want to be on the list. Then I cook for 8. :-)
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:27 PM on March 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


When I first read about this a few months ago, i swear that i read that it started out as being open but they changed that in order to better control for the number of people. Going to try and dig up that article but it's hard to remember where i read it first since it's been in every food magazine and blog I read. It's crazy how much publicity they are getting for the idea of having friends over for dinner without a set guest list, aka what my rural family and friends have been doing on weekends their entire lives.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:30 PM on March 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I literally cannot imagine anything more terrible than many people on the internets knowing my home address and wanting to show up for any reason at all.

HOWEVER if someone wanted to make me tasty meatballs and leave them outside my front door with absolutely no other interaction involved I guess that would be okay, aside from the whole "a person knows where i live" thing, to which I am steadfastly opposed.

maybe a meatball dead drop
posted by poffin boffin at 2:32 PM on March 30, 2015 [43 favorites]


It's also the lack of any need for commitment that makes this unlike a dinner party. People (including myself) are so ridiculously plan-averse these days that I would imagine this is the main thing that makes it work and make it so delightful.
posted by kitcat at 2:39 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


For the record, I was part of two different ongoing dinner groups two years ago, one that was always hosted by the same person and one that would rotate. One petered out because an acrimonious break up doesn't jive with the open guest list idea. Not sure what happened to the other.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:43 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


How do people deal with not knowing how many people to cook for?

I'd think the idea is to cook something you wouldn't mind eating the leftovers of for a day or two.
posted by straight at 2:45 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


"We were just collapsing onto the couch at the end of every day to watch TV," she recalls. "We never saw friends and barely even talked to our neighbors."

If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:48 PM on March 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


I probably would not have survived my first couple of years living in Los Angeles if it hadn't been for the weekly open-door Shabbos dinners that my friend Baruch's parents hosted. Once again, the rest of us seem to be playing catch-up to Jewish tradition.

I literally cannot imagine anything more terrible than many people on the internets knowing my home address and wanting to show up for any reason at all.

It sounds like they were posting it to their Facebook. If they're like me, and their Facebook friends list is limited to actual friends, I don't think that this would be a problem for most people. If I reviewed my Facebook friends list and found someone on it that I wouldn't be comfortable hosting in my home for an evening, I'd probably just unfriend that person.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:51 PM on March 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Honestly, this sounds awful to me. Unbearably awful. Not only would I not want to participate in such a thing, I'd much rather not be around the sorts of people who find it to be a good idea.
posted by newfers at 2:51 PM on March 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


meatball dead drop

...is the name of my new band.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:55 PM on March 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


It is distinguished from a dinner party in that it's very casual. You say dinner party and I think "set the table, make a centerpiece, cocktail hour beforehand, etc etc". But this is more like - we are eating, join us if you'd like. I have a group that does this on a less regular basis (we average once a month), my brother's circle of friends does the same, and I have one friend in another city and they call it "family meal" to evoke the kind of thing you would have done with your parents and cousins and grandparents. In all cases, the meal is simple, the dress is casual, and no pressure. Just enjoy.
posted by double bubble at 2:55 PM on March 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


I love the idea, and I loved the article. I live nowhere near my family, and so the only time we (my wife, my two kids and I) have dinner with others is at family-friendly dinner parties with friends. Those are rare and stressful. I long for big family-style dinners in the same way I long for neighbours who just stop in uninvited for coffee: with loneliness and nostalgia. Nothing in my life is that casual, and I miss it. Friday Night Meatballs (or however you want to personalize it) seems like an attempt to rebuild community in an environment that requires significant effort to do so.
posted by arcticwoman at 2:59 PM on March 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


I want to be the kind of person who does this sort of thing, but the reality is I don't like everybody. I like most people, but sometimes you meet a person who kind of sucks a little bit and while you are totally fine with them at arm's length you'd kinda rather not have them over at your house.

I do like meatballs, though.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:03 PM on March 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


glad we're not friends then, newfer! but seriously, what could possibly be wrong with having a standing invitation to weekly dinner at a friend's house?
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:05 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's easy to be all lol, swpl about something this simple having its own branding, but if you strip away the web-gloss and stuff like the use of Google Docs, I think it's still a worthwhile idea. I sang the praises of co-ops earlier, which are even more structured; this is a nice middle ground where you still have "family dinner" without having to wrangle a whole group of people into committing to something. (I also like that this scheme makes it clear that the point is not to have a "dinner party" in the sense of the competitive sport.)

And ultimately, if the person throwing these dinner parties wants to cash in and sell some mugs or whatever, I'm not mad about it; better she earn a few bucks for something like this than for, I don't know, Tim Ferris's "4 Hour Social Life" (which I am imagining as somehow involving outsourced contract labor and covert networking).
posted by en forme de poire at 3:09 PM on March 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


outsourced contract labor

Maybe have everyone who wants to arrange their own Grubhub delivery to your house?
posted by travertina at 3:14 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I know several different people who do something like this, either once a week or once every other week. It seems fun, but also the sort of thing people have been doing for a long time, even the semi-open part.

Whatever, it'll still be fun even if people think this person came up with it.
posted by kenko at 3:15 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is distinguished from a dinner party in that it's very casual. You say dinner party and I think "set the table, make a centerpiece, cocktail hour beforehand, etc etc". But this is more like - we are eating, join us if you'd like.

Yeah some people completely freeze up when you say "dinner party" and get this wave of cultural expectation crashing into them and you have to talk them down "no no it's just a family and friends meal, think of it like Sunday supper or ...open office hours for the house. Just bring some wine."
posted by The Whelk at 3:22 PM on March 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I love this idea, right, and I try. But it destroyed my love of cooking because the people who came had a set of behaviours that just tainted everything (force feeding children until they gagged and threw up, screaming, constant fighting at the table).

I'm gearing myself up for it, because I love to feed people but not gonna lie, I wonder how the hell people cope with the behavioural stuff when kids are around (since, as we've been told endlessly, our child's manners and willingness are an outlier).
posted by geek anachronism at 3:22 PM on March 30, 2015


I think it would be okay to tell those terrible people that they are uninvited forever on account of them being terrible people.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:27 PM on March 30, 2015 [24 favorites]


I wouldn't mind hosting but I really hate coking for large groups. It pushes all kinds of stress buttons for me. I'd need a partner in crime who didn't want to host but loves cooking for people.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:30 PM on March 30, 2015


Skimming Mefi posts too quickly can lead to cerebral whiplash. I first read the woman's name as Sasha Grey and thought, holy shit she's going to get a lot of creeps crashing her place for dinner. Anyway, as you were.
posted by Ber at 3:31 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ber, yes, Sarah actually gets that a lot. It's something of a problem for her.
posted by graymouser at 3:32 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


This thread has shown me that if I ever attempt this, my friends will automatically self-sort into people who want to hang out and be social, and others who find the simple existence of other human beings to be more anguish than they can physically bear, and unfriend me for even introducing the thought into their heads.

Works out for everyone!
posted by danny the boy at 3:44 PM on March 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


I like this and would like to institute a MeFite version!
posted by chatongriffes at 3:46 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I probably would not have survived my first couple of years living in Los Angeles if it hadn't been for the weekly open-door Shabbos dinners that my friend Baruch's parents hosted. Once again, the rest of us seem to be playing catch-up to Jewish tradition.


Truth- I remember reading this awhile back, and thinking "Oh, this sounds nice, maybe I should do that."

And then, somewhat spontaneously, the group of Jewish young adults I hang out with decided "Hey, let's do shabbos dinners on Friday nights", and it's slowly morphing into a bi-monthly-ish "host makes a big pot of something, everyone brings something to share, and let's just nosh and schmooze". It's a great, low key thing. Are there some people in the group I'm sort of "eh" on? Yeah, but for me, the general community (and the people in the group I'm hooray! on) outweigh that part.
posted by damayanti at 3:51 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


We hang out with our neighbors all the time. Living in a small 3-unit building at the top of a steep hill means a little community planning can minimize a lot of stair-climbing. Plus, we share similar tastes in booze. As I was reading this thread I got a text about the next poker night.

But if the neighborhood got a taste of my wife's meatballs we'd have a line out the door. Nah. Not sharing, sorry.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:57 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


My brother's best friend and his wife have been doing this for years, except that it's game night -- casual dinner+desert followed by a relaxed tabletop roleplaying session (an ongoing campaign, but with pre-made character sheets so irregular guests can jump in wherever). It's a highlight of my visits, and I never even tried tabletop before getting my first invite.
posted by bettafish at 3:58 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


During grad school we had a standing event called "Cheese Night" where basically anyone could show up at my house on Fridays after eight and, well, eat cheese. And drink wine. It was word-of-mouth and you could bring a friend or two, but the price of admission was some cheese. It was facilitated by the fact that we had an eight foot long table in the kitchen ringed with stools, so we could fit a lot of people in. We were pretty serious about cheese, too - there were reference books (I was in library school) - and someone would regularly bring over a raclette toaster. A distinguished illustrator once gave us an impromptu lecture on what kind of Kirschwasser to use in fondue. Wine was occasionally thrown. It wasn't an original idea; we had heard about Jim Haynes in Paris who had been hosting open dinners at his studio for decades, we thought we could do something similar, but with cheese.
posted by gyusan at 4:01 PM on March 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: Similar to that other site, but with cheese.
posted by smidgen at 4:20 PM on March 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I like this and would like to institute a MeFite version!

Portland-MF has been doing potlucks for awhile and it has worked out pretty great.
posted by curious nu at 4:23 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, in my little circle that does this, there is only one couple with kids and those kids are very well behaved (most of the time). It makes a world of difference. Or having a place to send them - like a basement game room or something.
posted by double bubble at 4:26 PM on March 30, 2015


I wouldn't mind hosting but I really hate coking for large groups. It pushes all kinds of stress buttons for me. I'd need a partner in crime who didn't want to host but loves cooking for people.

Ha, I am your potential partner in crime. I am weirdly territorial about my home and get all twitchy about having the place tidy and clean and immaculate, but I do the bulk of my cooking for large groups anyway--I freeze my own meals--and I love cooking in large quantities and shoving food at people. I've occasionally contemplated doing something like the Friday Night Meatballs concept, but I have not nearly enough social energy right now and I do not actually own a dinner table. ....but if someone who did have a dinner table wanted to host, weelll.....
posted by sciatrix at 4:30 PM on March 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I love the idea of this, but I've never hosted much at my house: it's pretty small, I don't have a lot of chairs, and my neighborhood is kind of dodgy. Also, I get most of my big social get-togethers at my sister's house, which is bigger & nicer & has a MUCH better kitchen. Plus way more seating.

OTOH it sounds kind of awesome.
posted by suelac at 4:41 PM on March 30, 2015


I mostly love this.... though the breathless The Greatest Generation Did Everything Better! rhetoric is a bit much. My grandparents weren't forging a tight-knit community. They were drunk on highballs and watching TV.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:42 PM on March 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


i really wanted to do this. We ended up having people over one time - and it was a lot of work, a lot of stress, trying to manage them all. I want to try again - and maybe get a few super cheep costco pizzas and PBRs. maybe that would make it better. But it's really important to me that I maximize everyone's happiness, so the fact that e.g. one person didn't eat my home cooked pizza because they didn't enjoy black olives... that really wears on me.
posted by rebent at 4:44 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


If I put up a Facebook post like this it would get 11 Likes and three comments, two from people in other cities saying they "wish [they] could come! sounds so fun!" and another from my mom saying "save some for me!!! <3 mom".

No one would come and I'd get a text from a friend saying "hey did you do that meatball thing? sorry passed out last night after work."

So, that's my life.
posted by windbox at 4:46 PM on March 30, 2015 [44 favorites]


I have several friends who are doing versions of this pretty successfully since we all passed around the original article.

I would love love love to do it, but it's Los Angeles and I live in the Valley, so nobody will come out here.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:48 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Proximity to friends is key to this working.
posted by double bubble at 4:55 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love this. I invite over a bunch of friends every month, but every week is a completely different level.

In addition to reinforcing existing friendships, it seems like a good way to invite new friends into your life. When you meet someone randomly with shared interests, what are you going to do -- invite them out on a "friend date"? Super awkward. Much easier to invite them to join your big dinner on Friday night.

The only problem with organizing it on Facebook is that most of my friends are now completely tuned out of Facebook. I'd have better luck with evite.com....
posted by miyabo at 4:59 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking a lot about this lately. Here in the 21st century American suburbs we hardly have any community at all. For a while, churches filled this function but not anymore. I'm not sure how to get back to where people know each other again. Trying to begin a tradition like this seems like a good idea.

I've been watching a lot of BEGIN Japanology in the last month or so. One thing I noticed is that one way Japanese people seem to maintain a sense of community is through festivals. When your neighborhood or town has had the same festival every spring for more than a thousand years, that can't happen without a community.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:09 PM on March 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't mind hosting but I really hate coking for large groups. It pushes all kinds of stress buttons for me. I'd need a partner in crime who didn't want to host but loves cooking for people.

Yeeeep - I can host like a motherfucker but my SO used to work in institutional catering and soup kitchens so his basic conception of a "meal" is like, 12 servings. Anyone else who isn't super social or into the chatter and go help in the kitchen, that's why we have the host/kitchen divide. we will give you a job and anyone kitchen side gets as much wine as they can stand soooo
posted by The Whelk at 5:15 PM on March 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've been thinking about something like this, too. It had the idea when I read Proust and looked up the concept of the "at-home day" because it's crucial to Proust's writing. It was the way "society" worked back in the late 1800's. All the rich wives in town would let it be known that they were "at home" on some particular day, and everyone else in town would drop by to chat. It gave me the thought, (even if I'm a gay bachelor, not a society housewife) "what if I posted on Facebook that I'm doing 'at home nights'? Say, Thursdays from 7:00-10:00, anyone who wants come over and we'll just hang out."

I haven't actually tried it yet. I'm daunted by, 1) my apartment is pretty tiny, only have seats for about six people, any more would have to stand which wouldn't be good if it turned into a "hey let's watch a movie," 2) I sort of have a couple different social circles, and some people in one don't like the ones in the other - but it's the ones in the other that I'm more interested in because I currently don't know them as well but (based on Facebook posts) I think I actually share more interests with them, and 3) I just wonder if anyone will actually grasp the spirit of the concept. It feels like people need to be given a big reason to step out and go somewhere.
posted by dnash at 5:29 PM on March 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


The only thing I don't like about this idea is that it's only for one night and you have to go home!

(I loved the college lifestyle; why did everyone else start to cocoon?)

So I am down for this any time. Everyone come over and we'll eat some pizza, drink Mountain Dew, and riff on Star Trek reruns. Then we'll wander over to your place and do the same thing. :-)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 5:33 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yep, at home days, big days - it's when all your informal but super important social work got done. How else do you maintain your social ties?
posted by The Whelk at 5:47 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


(Although an at home day does presume someone in parlor as a buffer, you know, in case you have bad scheduling.)
posted by The Whelk at 5:48 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


When my friends and I were in our post-college, pre-family days we started a "Friday night BBQ" tradition. Rain or shine (more of the former, since this was in happening in shared housing in SE Portland) we would fire up the grill and cook at least one meat + one veggie dish on it; other folks brought beer, more meat/veg, cold salads, etc.

More recently we had a Sunday night "pre-Cosmos dinner" series which worked really well. We cooked pasta or soup; folks dropped in with side dishes, dessert, and wine; and then we all watched Neil DeGrasse Tyson drop some science while we digested.

There's something really different about hosting a casual weekly drop-in meal as compared to big, invite-only dinner parties. I personally enjoy both experiences but the former can be pretty stress-free (as long as you have a good protocol for un-inviting people who behave poorly).

Now that my wife and I are expecting our first kid I've toyed with the idea of bringing back the weekly meal, but I'm a little nervous about doing so before we have a chance to see how the lil'un deals with random adults wandering into the house.
posted by rcoder at 5:51 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


We do this in a couple of different ways.

Our church has an organized scheduled get-to-know-people thing called Suppers of 8, where people sign up to host and there's childcare at the church and everything.

We also host a super-informal monthly-ish game night usually with done costco pizzas and some six packs. It's planned at most a week in advance but usually the same day. A lot of time it's on a weeknight as a lot of my friends work retail. We'll play games or watch a dumb movie. We call it "game night" or "movie night". We usually do it with out childless friends after our kids go down. As for invitations, it's done with a big group text that says time and what to bring and to invite people who aren't on the text. I love intermingling my different groups of friends, and people who don't like certain people will text me and ask if they're coming.
posted by sleeping bear at 6:05 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Haven't the Sikhs been hosting free dinners for, like, ever?
posted by uosuaq at 6:08 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


This concept baffles me. I do the full Thanksgiving and Christmas cookery for around 12-14 people every year, plus maybe one or two other dinners that are a little lower-key but still multi-course for 8 or so. I enjoy it, but it's exhausting. Cooking for more than the two of us even once a month sounds like a recipe for utter madness, but hats off to anyone who manages it.

My compromise position at this point is having people over for tabletop/RPG time once or twice a month, which gives us an opportunity to hang out and catch up while ensuring I don't end up having three loads of dishes to do after everyone leaves.

it's Los Angeles and I live in the Valley, so nobody will come out here.

As I can personally attest, if you offer your friends food, they show up. Even to the SFV. Even those people who you basically never see socially at any other time.
posted by tautological at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2015


This would be fun as a really casual mefi meetup. We could use my house.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:26 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, if you don't like cooking just get Papa Murphy's pizza. For $20 you can feed 20 people a good meal. I have no idea how or why it's so cheap.
posted by miyabo at 7:34 PM on March 30, 2015


I would love to do this. Even though I know very few people in my new city, I think the key is to set up a very regular thing. People will come and go from week to week, but the rotating cast of characters would continue on, and just having the (so casual) open door a few hours a week would let you invite everyone. Hours can be extended based on how everyone gets along, whether board games, movies, tv marathons, drinking, etc., extends later. Friends, co-workers, crushes would all mingle and everyone would chat and network and form new bonds. This is my fantasy. Saturdays at 1 PM? Who's in?
posted by bendy at 8:13 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Agreed, this sounds like it'd be a lot of fun, given the caveats/requirements for getting it off the ground.
I love to cook for people, hosting is fun/energetic though nervous business...

Only problem is: I know precisely one person socially in the area and they're an hour away in Tacoma.
posted by CrystalDave at 9:16 PM on March 30, 2015


I do this with the families of the kids my child plays with, be they school friends or neighborhood kids.

There are a bunch of reasons, from "Hey, we're going to be seeing these kids for the next 10 years, we should probably know their parents" to "I enjoyed chatting with this parent on the playground, I wonder if we can socialize outside that environment".

We generally limit it to 6 adults (so, 3-ish couples) and however many kids they come with.
We have the parents in the dining room and the kids in the other room at their own table.
That way, the parents can have conversation without constant watching children, and the kids can eat or not eat as they see fit.

We always do spaghetti and meatballs because it's cheap and easy.
Sometimes the sauce is slow-simmered all day, sometimes it's 2 jars from Safeway.
Often the meatballs are hand-made pork/beef, sometimes they're frozen costco.
We serve it buffet-style, no matching napkins or placemats, toss your dishes into the dishwasher when you're done.

Come summer, when it's light out at night, we'll probably switch to burgers on the grill, so we can be outside, but really, remember KISS.
If you can't toss it together in the hour and a half between work and people showing up, you're trying too hard.
posted by madajb at 9:22 PM on March 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


We do two versions ... BYOB taco night where I get taco chips, shredded cheddar, shredded lettuce, and meat from the restaurant supply store, make the meat in a crock pot and make a small pot of vegetarian beans. People bring liquor, cookies, veggie trays, etc, and we set out two long tables on our driveway for the food and provide ice an coolers. We always end with more alcohol than we started with.

The other version we provide three cases of wine and basically bar munchies and tell people its wine and munchies, bring what they like, or nothing, or whatever. We usually end up with cakes and hot wings and chili and so on. We arrange several adult seating areas, a big blanket in the shade for the babies, and we give kids free run of the way back.

We invite 90 or 100 people usually. Twice a summer when the garden is at its best. When its over we hose off the driveway. Hosing the driveway is the key point.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:42 PM on March 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


My grad school flatmates and I used to do a sort of sporadic brunch version of this-- someone's friends would rotate in every week or so, and it was "brunch" filtered through five countries, so it was always wonderful. I miss that and I'm still holding out hope of finding a neighborhood/apartment/life that offers injera and pancakes again.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:07 PM on March 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I love hosting dinners and having parties. And I make pretty damn good meatballs. Meetup? Meatball-up?

The trouble with stuff like this is, even if you use paper plates and plastic silverware, there's still a shit-ton to clean up afterwards. All the serving bowls, platters, spoons, glasses. All the paper plates everywhere, people who don't understand the concept of recycling clogging your trash with perfectly-recyclable stuff, people putting half a plate of pasta into the recycle bin. It can be a lot of work before and after. It's usually worth it, but also the cleanup happens when all you want to do is go to bed.

And sure, people might volunteer to help you clean up, but then they do the dishes WRONG and don't fill the dishwasher according to your established SYSTEM and they put that one bowl in the dishwasher that clearly DOES NOT go in the dishwasher and they wash everything but the cheese grater and the pan the chocolate sauce was made in (because they are an ABINGER) and generally do everything WRONG but because they are "helping" you you can't tell them what an awful person they are for putting the spoons in the basket cup down.
posted by bondcliff at 8:18 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would totally do this, but in NYC, a lot of people act like you're acting them to promise you their first-born child if you ask them to come out to Queens. Unless they already live in Queens.
posted by holborne at 8:24 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


but in NYC, a lot of people act like you're acting them to promise you their first-born child if you ask them to come out to Queens. Unless they already live in Queens.

Yeah, I live in a Boston suburb and I get a lot of "where the hell is that?" from people closer into the city. It's like I'm asking them to drive to Iowa or something.
posted by bondcliff at 8:25 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hah, some of my suburban friends won't come to my house in a safe but dense city neighborhood because they're afraid of getting mugged.
posted by miyabo at 8:32 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would love to do this but everyone I know is so busy (plus I, too, am in the dreaded suburbs away from a lot of my city friends), I'm sure I'd put out an invite and no one would come.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:33 AM on March 31, 2015


I really wish I could, though. It's hard to make new friends!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:40 AM on March 31, 2015


Unless they already live in Queens.

the fucking subways are so hellish now on the weekends though, so it's not a TOTALLY irrational disinclination as it mostly was in previous times. either way there is literally not one single thing i will ever do on a friday night other than try to break my current record of 17 minutes from office drudgery to pajamas at home.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:47 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


either way there is literally not one single thing i will ever do on a friday night

Oh yeah, even IF I were to try this in LA, it would not be Friday nights. That's crazy talk. Sunday afternoons around 3:00 would probably be the most optimal, and I think a couple of my friends who are successfully doing this in other cities are also doing it at that time, and it works because most people's Friday nights are either for partying or collapsing, depending on age/stage of life status, and most people don't have major commitments for Sunday afternoons except for the existential dread of the coming Monday.

Which is a good time for eating garlic bread.

But in a public transportation situation, Sunday afternoon schedules are often complete garbage so that probably doesn't work well either.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:24 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Our household has just been starting to work on this. We were going to a friend's house on Sundays for a while as part of a gaming group--the gaming schedule changed a bit but it was lovely to just have some food with friends. We're starting off with offering to feed a few friends on Sunday nights, and are hoping that the more we offer the clearer it is to everyone that it's a standing invitiation. (We're not yet promising that even to ourselves, in case it ends up not being fun.)

I think one of the key things is figuring out food that's easy and scales up well. So far for us that's been throwing a bunch of stuff in the oven.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:59 AM on March 31, 2015


I am doing this! Sorta. I'm only doing it monthly (I have a dayjob, it's got a long commute, and I'm the cook in the family -- I can only manage a monthly thing), but our next one is this Saturday.

Hard to explain but -- my family has get-togethers frequently, but they're always around things. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations. I wanted a get-together that didn't demand much from people. No cakes to bake, no presents to buy -- just bring yo' bad self and we'll have a bowl of pasta and not talk about our diets for once.

I do tell people I need to know by Thursday night how many are coming so I can plan accordingly, and we're currently "capped" at 14 people (it's all my home can hold), but the last one was awesome and everyone loved it. I had always wanted to do a "weekend night dinner" where I sat down with friends or family and we talked, but it never materialized until I saw this article on Serious Eats.

I have considered expanding it and inviting over neighbors. I'm just so not sure of my neighbors. But maybe that's why I should?

Anyway. I loved it, and I still love it, and I will probably keep doing it until people stop showing up. Which, given that they'e getting free meatballs, is unlikely to happen.
posted by offalark at 11:21 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love the idea of this, although with a live-in partner who's a bit more introverted and has different friend preferences it would be challenging.

My friends and I already often do informal hangouts that are announced on social media, and I think it's really great! It does have downsides, though, in that I'm learning that some people will regularly go to informal, open-to-all, group hangs, but others will never or rarely go. So it's important to not replace all your friend-supportiveness-community-outreach stuff with that; you still should reach out to specific people because some will only respond to that and it makes everyone feel differently and specifically loved. Also one-on-one or smaller group (4 or less) hangouts have a different level of intimacy that I sometimes forget I need. For me, it's easy to think that I'm doing a good job of maintaining friendships by staying connected online and going to group hangs, when in fact I'm missing out on important and life-sustaining interactions. YMMV of course.

On the community thing, this kind of reminds me of a friend of mine who is currently facing legal battles because he and some friends bought a house together and have what sounds like a really wonderful "family" life. Sharing taking care of kids, cooking dinners, chores, and all that, even though they are not all related by blood or marriage. Unfortunately they are now in a zoning battle to keep their house related to the legal definition of family.
posted by misskaz at 11:32 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


If anyone's looking for easy food solutions, I recently had a frozen pizza party where I bought a bunch of $1.99 pizzas and a bag of shredded mozzerella from Aldi, plus a thirty rack of PBR. Everyone else brought toppings and we just made pizza after pizza. It was actually probably the cheapest party I've ever had where everyone left having eaten dinner.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:20 PM on March 31, 2015


the fucking subways are so hellish now on the weekends though, so it's not a TOTALLY irrational disinclination as it mostly was in previous times.

Well, in fairness, the 7 is usually ok on the weekends, except for four full months every winter where they hose it completely because you know, who cares about Queens where we're nothing but a bunch of blue collar workers and immigrants anyway. God forbid they should fuck with all the middle-class people who want to attend the Mets games and the US Open; better to make the actual residents stand out in the cold waiting for a shuttle bus in the dead of winter.
posted by holborne at 12:39 PM on March 31, 2015


It was actually probably the cheapest party I've ever had where everyone left having eaten dinner.

yeah but now you have 4 gallons of ranch dressing to deal with
posted by poffin boffin at 12:46 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wondering if this would work with dal and chai in Sydney.....
posted by taff at 1:52 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't mind hosting but I really hate coking for large groups. It pushes all kinds of stress buttons for me. I'd need a partner in crime who didn't want to host but loves cooking for people.

I mean just statistically I don't think you're in the Northern Idaho/Eastern Washington area but if you are, hit me up, because I love cooking giant batches of food (I even love the inevitable "oops we just realized there's someone coming who can't eat x, time to make an x-free adjunct meal"), but I just cannot with the making sure everyone has the address and finding someone who can bring extra chairs and coordinating who can give a ride to whom and making sure the one person who inevitably arrives 10 minutes before anyone else doesn't feel awkward or bored.
posted by kagredon at 8:06 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


either way there is literally not one single thing i will ever do on a friday night other than try to break my current record of 17 minutes from office drudgery to pajamas at home

oh that's easy. skip the pyjamas and you shave off two minutes, no problem.

IMPORTANT wait until you are in your front door before enacting this plan I have learned
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:26 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh. Just posted this on facebook. (Wish us luck!!!)

In the spirit of catching up with- people we love but seldom see, people we see but never for long enough, and people we would like to get to know better... "Friday Night Dal and Chai" starts this Friday!

(MrTaff) and I want to have a regular informal open house where you come if you like, bring something (or someone) to share if you like and stay as long as you like. Door opens at 18:00.

We'll sort out some games for any kids wanting them and chuck some food on the table in a house that's guaranteed to be cluttered and messy but welcoming.

The dal will be vegetarian but (MrTaff) will make it so will actually be yummy.

Please see this as your personal invitation, dalings.
---------------

Any Sydney MeFites very welcome to come.
posted by taff at 9:57 PM on March 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


Huh, best night ever.

Update- thirty people, hoards of boisterous happy kids, it poured with rain, everyone brought food to share, a friend or a story...much booze dal and chai...laughing singing debating and listening. Couldn't have hoped for better. Everyone wants to know if we're doing it again. I believe it's a yes!

Woo hoo, thanks for the inspiration. My community thinks I'm awesome because of something I learned here. Once again.

Again MeFites in Sydney...memail me if you ever want to come. I'll put your names on the door list.
posted by taff at 1:02 AM on April 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


« Older Lost in the Holacracy   |   Who the heck knows what lurks that deep in the... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments