At the heart of why we invite people to our house for food is that we want to spend some time and share food with them. The most essential ingredient for a meal with friends is not, paradoxically, the food, nor the perfect house to host in, but the sentiment that you convey to guests when you open your home and carve out some time to share with them. It says, “I like you and I enjoy your company.” But even knowing this in our heads, with so many threads to weave in to a week – home life, work life, children, caring responsibilities and probably more – a lunch table of guests won’t seem like fun. It will just look like hard work.

There are so many ways to combine food and friends at home without finding yourself bare-knuckle punching a wall with the stress and frustration of it all. So, we have sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident found ways to take what might be thought of as shortcuts and concessions in cooking for others at home. Have the food prepared in advance; choose food that doesn’t require a table to eat at or cutlery to eat with; rely on the self-serve or self-assembly format; try an afternoon tea where you do one cake and do it well.

Whatever you choose to make, our hope is that we might convince the hosting-shy or the hosting-fatigued or the hosting-frazzled that near enough really will be good enough.