One of the most beautiful things we can do in life is gather with others. Having positive, respectful and loving relationships with others can help keep us healthy and happy.
Sometimes we let entertaining overwhelm us as we try to do too much. Whether to impress or because we feel going above and beyond is necessary in order to have an enjoyable evening.
But like many things in life, and something I strongly believe in - simplicity is beautiful.
The most important part about gathering is the connection with others. Coming together in an intimate surrounding to share stories and laugh with one another. And for gatherings to have a sense of ease.
What takes the ease away is when we try to do too much. When we spend the whole night in the kitchen preparing a three course meal on par with a Masterchef contestant, taking all of our time away from what truly matters - sharing quality time with others.
When we overcomplicate we are less likely to gather regularly because it can be exhausting. And because doing the whole three course meal is rather costly. We are more likely to keep gatherings happening consistently when we keep simplicity and ease in mind.
What does gathering with ease feel like?
I say feel here because it's an important element of gathering.
When I have guests in my home I hope that they feel welcome and like they are part of the family. I try to evoke a feeling of warmth, comfort and casualness, one that is calm and harmonious. Food feels like a natural extension of the evening. Bowls making their way into the hands of guests with a glass of wine sitting alongside them. A grazing board enjoyed slowly for the whole of an afternoon. Children welcome to sit on laps and enjoy whatever we ourselves are eating.
They include a little mess and things not going perfectly. But nonetheless they are enjoyed and we continue to host them often.
A few things I've learned along the way when it comes to gathering with ease:
Don't be afraid to cook what you know well. Sometimes we try to do new amazing meals which isn't necessarily bad, but it's also nice to do those meals that we know from memory. And rather beautiful to share something our family loves with others.
It's ok to cheat at times. Instead of making a dessert from scratch on top of everything else to prepare, scooping a spoon of quality ice-cream and serving it with a biscotti can be equally enjoyable.
Sitting on the floor to eat can be just as nice as a table. Most of my favourite gatherings have been while sitting cross legged around the living room floor, with children in laps or playing nearby. Gathering around a table is beautiful. But so too are the more casual affairs.
Accept help from others. Sharing the responsibility of a gathering can help keep them easier. Take turns to host, alternate who cooks the main meal, let the other bring a dessert. And accept help in the kitchen to bring a meal together.
Keep conversation light-hearted. I've sat around a table with heated debates and arguments and left the evening feeling heavy and exhausted. They haven't been enjoyable at all. For a gathering to have a sense of ease about it, conversation needs to be friendly, light and drama free.
Human connection is a beautiful thing and something we seem to be moving away from. With so many of us on social media and already seeing what others appear to be doing in their day-to-day, I do wonder if it is taking away the desire to gather often.
But this face-to-face interaction with others is so important to our wellbeing. It keeps us connected. And feeling a part of something greater than ourselves. It's also important for our children to experience and encourages them to welcome togetherness into their lives.