Upon entering college, one of the first things you as a Brown student probably learned is that food is a motivating factor for many things. Want to get people to come to a boring meeting? Free Kabob and Curry! Want these people to really like you? Meeting Street Cookies! Luckily enough, this method also works with friendship, although I’m not sure if I advocate hosting a dinner party with the sole purpose of getting people to think you’re not boring… Regardless, gathering friends (new and old) together is a great way to solidify relationships, share a few laughs, and/or get shwasty before going out.
Dinner parties do not always have to be fancy, classy, or well thought-out (although, the host that plans reaps great rewards, young grasshopper). In fact, impromptu gatherings can be even more fun than elegant soirées if the right people are involved. Food fests can be executed in a number of ways ranging from cooking-heavy to Tedeschi-themed potluck, and hosting or taking part in said festivities can be quite simple. To successfully plan a get-together, first determine the event’s purpose. Why are you gathering? How many people do you want to be involved? What time of day will this event take place? Where will this event take place? Though these may seem like obvious questions, I cannot tell you how many of my own plans have been foiled by a lack of fundamental preparation. It’s not enough to want to get together; you have to have venue and a group of consenting individuals to make sure things will actually happen.
Next, establish if this will be a host-and-guest sort of shindig (AKA one person cooks for many) or if the dinner will be more communal (AKA potluck). Or, better yet, maybe you want to have a communal cooking effort? This may entail one kitchen but many helpful hands to create a meal for everyone. Something like this makes the dinner feel more intimate because everyone involved feels like they have contributed something to the homemade meal. However you choose to organize your meal, make sure it is clear from the outset. This way, everyone involved knows upfront what they are expected to contribute and can plan trips to the grocery store (or superior thievery from Dining Services) ahead of time.
And now to the fun stuff: theme! This could be the most fun part of your party (besides the actual eating, of course). Do you want to eat just hor d’oeuvres, or a full meal? Or, maybe follow in the footsteps of SPEC and drink straight from chocolate fountains? Last weekend, a good friend of mine decided to host a dinner and cook us a Southwestern TexMex feast—something I highly recommend. It is easy to prepare, always delicious, and can easily suit both carnivores and omnivores. My friend slaved over a hot crockpot and stove to make us some frijoles de la olla, shredded chicken with onions and green peppers, and sweet corn tamalitos (a personal favorite!). In addition, she also whipped up some Mexican rice in her rice cooker and brought along some tortillas. It was truly a feast and it was great to hang out with good friends around the dinner table instead of at a dining hall!
For all those who are not as dedicated to cooking as my friend, Mexican-themed parties are also ideal for potlucks. Someone can bring some beans (hey, open a can or two, throw ‘em in the microwave and you’re good to go!), someone else can bring salsa and chips, another person can spring for some guacamole, and so on until you’ve covered all of the appropriate food groups. Fajitas are also a really simple way to bulk up a meal, and are easily adaptable; veggies and chicken are an ingenious way to use up oldish vegetables just hanging out in the refrigerator as well as leftover chicken (or Ratty chicken… shhhh…). For those of us with cars or a slightly larger wallet, shrimp or steak fajitas are always a crowd pleaser. And, if someone brings a handle of tequila and some cerveza, you’ve got a pretty successful Whisko pregame on your hands! Ay dios mio, one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, FLOOR.