It’s hard to stay connected in lock-down. You can’t meet in person, but you can get online and host a Virtual Dinner Party.
No, it’s not the same, but it’s better than nothing.
And as the important thing is to be together, and because most communications suppliers (e.g. Zoom or Skype) limit free plans to an hour, we’ll work to that timeframe.
And because time is short, and it’s the connection that’s important, we’ll tell everyone to work out their food and drinks themselves.
You could cook, or you could order takeout. It doesn’t matter – you can (if you want) talk about what you’re eating and share recommendations as you eat.
Just keep in mind that your time together will be limited, so try to limit the amount of getting up and moving around you’ll have to do once you’re all online.
You can drink anything you want. Just work it out on the basis of whether you’ve got work to do in the morning or not. And what you have to get done.
My feeling on this would be to just set up your laptop, tablet or smart phone on the table and not worry too much about anything else.
Make sure that the field of vision looks relatively neat and clean for those dialling in. Shutting doors (especially the toilet), and shovelling the usual dinner table archaeology out of the way is de rigueur.
Whatever. Neat and clean for preference.
Virtual Dinner Party Planning
If you’re unfamiliar with the communications service, make some time to learn how to use it, and to set your view to as large a screen as possible, test the audio quality and delay.
I’m still inclined to go with a 7.00 pm start, but as you’re not putting all the effort in, you can negotiate that with your dinner (or lunch) companions.
An hour is sufficient to get through two courses (main and dessert), and you can snack before or after.
But to maximise the time you have together, have your first course on the table ready to eat when everyone logs in. And the other ready to serve around 40 minutes in.
6:30 Set the table and get ready to log in
On the assumption you’re one or two people, lay the table with two places side by side. Probably on the long edge.
Put your laptop on the opposite side of the table, and try to limit the amount of viewing obstructions like glasses, bottles, condiments etc.)
You might like to put a silent clock out of the viewing zone so that you can keep an eye on the time.
As you get close to 7.00, put your food and drinks on the table (within easy reach) and log on.
I usually advise hosts to start eating on schedule, because you’ve given your guests a margin, shouldn’t punish prompt guests with overcooked food, and your late guests might not turn up at all.
However, you’re not cooking for others in a virtual dinner party. And it might be the case that your “guest’s” clocks are not synchronised with yours. they’re having trouble getting online, or are not running to schedule for some other reason.
So this one’s up to you, wait or not, as you feel comfortable with.
While I say serve dessert at 7.40, you can pretty much eat it at any time, because you’re all doing your own thing. Which may or may not include dessert.
7.55 Start Your Goodbyes
You might get lucky and get some free extra time, or you might not. You might get a countdown telling you time is running out, or you might not.
But everyone will be more satisfied with your event if they have a chance to say goodbye. So give them a little warning, and the opportunity to mock you about running out without doing dishes.
And then it’s over
Yeah, I know – not my best Dinner Party ever. But it’s still an opportunity to get together with your friends and enjoy some time face to face.
So to speak.