I was the child of a middle class family in the 60's, so I never knew anything different than all sitting down together at 6pm for dinner, during which we would all discuss our day and Dad would tell us about what was going on in the world and usually ask us questions relating to our school work. I thought everyone did this. Similarly, when Mum and Dad entertained Dad's clients at a dinner-party, my siblings and I handed out peanuts and olives and had a little chat with guests before we went off upstairs. Prior to guests arriving, I watched Mum prepare menus, went with her to shop for the ingredients and set the table, thereby learning about table linens, which wine glass to use for which wine, how to set out cutlery etc.
In later life, I attended dinners at Michelin starred restaurants, Hillsborough Castle, receptions at Westminster and found myself seated next to Ministers and Business Leaders. I loved the combination of dining and skilful conversation and silently thanked my parents for embedding the art of dining into my childhood.
Dinner parties have played a big part in my adult friendships too. A group of 8 of us have been hosting dinners every 6 weeks or so for over 30 years. Starting when the kids came along and we were all struggling for baby-sitters, we started to cook for each other and over the years we have discussed everything under the sun, whilst watching our children thrive and grow.
In this 21st century of 24/7 take-aways and non stop online conversation, it is sad to see the demise of the family dinner and studies are showing the negative effects of this. Many of the busy people I coach shudder at the thought of hosting a dinner party. "When would I have time to plan that, shop for that, cook that?" Just the thought of it is stressful for already stressed out individuals. And yet, they have time to face-book chat for at least an hour a day, watch you-tube and browse internet shopping. I know social media is important to billions of people but so many people I coach are addicted to it and do not realise how many hours a week it is eating up.
All I am saying is that a dinner party once a month with friends, colleagues or people you'd just really like to get to know is brilliant. Buy everything ready done from M and S or online if you don't fancy cooking. Or get a take-away. But getting 8 people around a table with no phones allowed makes for real connections and everything involved in the run up is so good for your children to see and experience. But once your little mites have handed out the olives, send them up to bed. This is your time for your kind of conversation and relaxation.
Role is launching a series of Exec Connect Dinners bringing together people I know who don't know each other .......... yet! Watch out for your invitation.