In college, having friends over meant making a tray of brownies or coordinating a potluck dinner. If you cooked the meal by yourself, it meant your friends would be gathered in your living room with a plate of spaghetti balanced on their knees because spaghetti lets you feed five people for a dollar.
After college and when my friends started buying houses, having friends over became replaced by entertaining. “We like to entertain,” people explain when they want to buy a house with a big kitchen and living room. The college-style gatherings don’t seem fancy enough, and the frequent casual gatherings at friends’ houses are replaced by parties with appetizers and wine glasses a couple of times a year.
I want my home to be a gathering place. I need easy snacks that let us invite people over often, even at the last minute. Two or three times a year we invite thirty people over for a big meal and party. Sometimes we have people over for dinner. Usually, though, our plans are “Let’s feed the kids an early meal, and then come over and eat snacks while the kids play.”
Last month when we had some friends over at our house, I tried to fix a snack for all the kids, and I started a small kitchen fire. “Fire!” I yelled, glad I don’t try to impress my friends. Usually I open a bag of chips.
Making people feel comfortable in your home means having easy snacks that don’t look like you made a big fuss or went to a lot of trouble. I always stay ready with coffee, beer, chips, and salsa. For the kids I have bananas, popcorn, and yogurt.
Some people have asked how I stay budget-conscious with our groceries while also providing a lot of snacks for other people, and the answer is easy: we almost never go out to eat. The main reason is that it’s difficult to eat gluten-free at restaurants, and we also need to bring our kids or pay for a babysitter. It’s easier to stay home. For the price of an appetizer and drink at a restaurant, I can buy snacks for everyone from the grocery store. It saves us money, and it saves our friends money too.