When’s the last time you hosted a dinner party?
If you’re a millennial twenty-something, the closest thing you may have is the time your friends came over and ate pizza on your dorm room couch. And if you’re just starting out in a new apartment in a new job in a new city, cooking for people is probably the last thing on your mind.
If that’s how you think, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful constructive tools for personal and social growth. Here are a few of them that I think you other twenty-somethings should consider when you get you own places for the first time:
1. It will help you learn how to cook
When you’re eating alone, you’re not paying too much attention to making a great culinary experience. You’ll work to satisfy your tastebuds with what they are used to demanding. That might mean ramen noodles or pizza or simple dishes you grew up with.
If you actually want to learn how to craft a meal to appeal to the full sense of taste, you have to cook for others. And if you want to learn how to cook for others, there’s no stronger motivator than having people coming by in two hours expecting a meal from you.
Commit to hosting, then look up recipes and try them. You’ll have real stakes for your learning, so what you gain and practice will stick.
2. It will motivate you to improve your living space
Taste in food is similar to taste in environment: it becomes desensitized without new experience. If you haven’t had other actual human beings over to your apartment in several months, it isn’t exactly going to be in good shape. Even if it’s livable and relatively clean, it’s probably missing some of the attention it needs.
When people are coming over in two hours, you start to notice small things. Looks like the shower needs a good scrubbing. The toilet could use a brushing. The carpet could use vacuuming.
After you’ve done the cleaning and your guests are gone, you suddenly find yourself in a much tidier apartment than the one in which you started out. That’s all due to thinking and then tidying from the perspective of someone who isn’t used to your mess. If you continue to host people frequently, you’ll keep your home much more nicely in the long term.
3. It will help you connect to cool, interesting people
This is probably the most important reason to give dinners. If you don’t have much to offer interesting, important people in terms of connections or resources, you can always give them a meal.
Use dinner parties as opportunities to develop relationships and social capital with people you want in your friend and professional circles. Eating together in a private, intimate setting like a home forms new levels of personal connection between people. People can see how you live, become comfortable around you, and contribute to creating a project (the meal) with you all in the course of the first hour of a dinner party.
When the wine and the food and the desserts come out, you can have conversations you wouldn’t normally have at the water cooler, on your way between meetings, or at a public social event. People speak more freely and more personally when they’re gathered around a dinner table, so you’re able to dive deeper into the important conversations that form true long-term connection. I’ve seen relationships go from “acquaintance” to “friend” over the course of a few hours of eating and drinking.
4. It will help you learn how to plan for hospitality
Hospitality – providing welcome to guests and strangers – is a tremendously important practice in many areas of life, from dating to family relationships to work relationships. It’s also an art that requires a good deal of efficient planning and execution. Hospitality can be either mundane or extraordinary. To execute on hospitality extraordinarily, you have to practice.
Practice by hosting dinner parties. The costs are relatively low. Your practice is probably going to be done around people you already know reasonably well. You’ll learn how to delight people and go above and beyond. Start by making two desserts, or by cooking an exotic dish, or by providing a theme to the dinner. Your friends will be glad to play along.
By the time you really need to break out the hospitality in a big way elsewhere, you’ll have plenty of training backing you up. You’ll know how to plan and acquire the necessary resources, prepare food and welcome for others, and engage strangers in ways that make them feel comfortable around you.
So, what are you waiting for? Dig up a recipe, find someone on your friend’s list who you want to know better, and schedule a dinner party. Give yourself time for trial and error, but make a solid commitment to practicing hospitality this month. You won’t regret the time you spend.