Bring Your Own Dinner
One of the reasons I don’t see my friends as often as I used to, is that I’m a little burned out on entertaining, and I guess a lot of my buddies are, too.
In my twenties and thirties someone was always having a shindig. Now? Let’s just say I have a lot of cute party clothes that are feeling lonely.
I recently resurrected an idea that makes hosting so easy that calling it hosting is kind of cheating. BYOD: Bring Your Own Dinner.
If the very idea of this has you leaping for your dog-eared copy of Emily Post, I hear you. But hang with me for another minute or two before you go back to planning your five-course sit-down dinner for eight.
In the early aughts my friends and I, who were mostly all single and living in San Francisco, used to get together at one or another’s house for dinner pretty regularly. It was easy.
But even back then, when life was simpler, and we had more energy, eventually we found that deciding whose turn it was to host, and making dinner for six on a work night, was a deterrent to seeing each other as often as we liked. Not good.
I forget exactly how we hit on the solution. My memory is terrible these days, but my friends Anna and Lesley were definitely there. (I do remember I was wearing a super cute Nanette Lepore jacket with jeans. Wish I still had that.)
One night we each brought our own burritos from somewhere and met up at Anna’s house. Or maybe one of us brought some leftovers from her lunch, one of us a burrito, and Anna opened a can of soup for herself.
Like I said, I don’t remember the details. Except I do know we realized pretty quickly that if we called it BYOD -- Bring Your Own Dinner -- and set the date for the next one right then and there, having dinner together again, and soon, would be guaranteed.
We invited Ashley, Cricket, and Debbie, and eventually Dena in on the scheme. It was such a success we did it for nearly a decade, seeing each other much more often than we would have if a proper meal had had to be on the table.
Here’s how it worked:
1. One person hosted. This means she bought the wine. If she wanted to clean up her house before we arrived, that was her business. Pouring wine and not being naked when we arrived was all that was required of the hostess.
2. One person, not the carefree hostess, brought dessert. This was optional, but since most of us like to bake and/or eat dessert, finding the sugar-bringing volunteer was not hard. And if no one volunteered? No dessert, and no hard feelings. Remember, there was wine.
3. Everyone brought her own dinner. Maybe she stopped for sushi on the way, maybe she brought leftovers from lunch. What someone else was eating was no one else’s beeswax.
4. Maybe once in a while someone got crazy ambitious and sent out an email saying she was stopping at Pacific Catch, and did anyone want her to pick them up a salad? But make no mistake: It was in the BYOD Bill of Rights that she was within bounds to go to Pacific Catch and never give the rest of us a thought.
5. We left no trace. Cleaning up your food wrappers was required. The hostess would be waaaay too busy washing those six wine glasses after we all went home. She didn’t need to take out an overflowing trash bag or do any dishes on top of it.
(One exception: Cricket has a fabulous crockery collection and couldn’t stand for any of us to eat salads out of cardboard boxes. So at her house she always made us act like grownups, and put our food on a pretty plate. I believe there were cloth napkins, too. Cricket really didn’t get it, did she?)
6. Before we left we set the date for the next dinner, usually about 3-4 weeks later. The fewer emails the better so cross-referencing calendars on the spot relieved us of any group email nonsense.
How beautiful is the BYOD gathering? You love it don’t you? I love it, too.
Then why don’t I do it today? I DON’T KNOW!
I think I feel too shy about asking my friends, new and old, to do it. They might think I’m too cheap to make them a proper dinner. I’m not cheap. I’m lazy.
Also? Nowadays I live in a hard-to-reach suburban rabbit warren. Oh sure, we have a great view of the mountain from our deck, but our house is a little remote, not a quick ride, especially for my friends who live in the city.
You’ve gottta be pretty tight with someone to ask them to drive through some of the worst traffic in America on a school night to get to you. And oh, by the way? When you arrive? There won’t be dinner. Could you just bring yourself something to eat?
Recently my dear friend Monica and I had an accidental BYOD at my house. It was last-minute, and the main point was just to spend a little informal time together. Jonathan was out sailing and her husband was away fighting California wildfires (Yeah. Read that again and complain about your hard day at the office.)
I had no guest-worthy food at home, and Monica is gluten and dairy free anyway, so she’s used to bringing her own sustenance wherever she goes. We gathered, with her child and mine, last-minute-BYOD-style, and had such a blast we did it again a few weeks later.
What do you say? Want to start a BYOD group with your friends?
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