As a food editor, dinner parties are basically my nirvana—friends, wine, conversation that goes late into the night, and of course, delicious food. It feels more intimate than eating out, and you can control the ingredients used (which, if you're me, lets you ignore the awkward conversation with the waiter about whether the water is filtered and the meat is humanely raised). Many of my friends, though, balk at the idea of hosting dinner parties. "It's too hard," said one. "I can barely cook for myself, much less five other people," said another. "Plus, everyone's gluten-free this or paleo that. It's not only time-consuming but annoying."
Last week, I found myself talking to a colleague, Rebecca Stump, who mentioned offhand that her and a group of girlfriends had been having weekly dinner parties—with one crucial twist. They all bring their own food. "I had a group of girlfriends all with different incomes and different dietary needs, and we were having trouble finding ways to get together that satisfied everyone's needs," she explained. "We get together and talk about dating lives, work stuff, family things, and super-deep topics—things you'd feel hesitant to discuss in a restaurant—so having a dinner atmosphere that's low-key and low-stress in the safety of someone's home really opens up conversation. Plus, when you bring your dinner (BYOD), everyone can adhere to their dietary preference without impinging on the group."