The playlist is sorted, the wine is well-stocked, and the beer chilling. The enticing smells of your home cooking waft around the house, and you’ve tidied up to that superior level that is only ever done when guests are coming. You’ve even hoovered behind the tricky bits. Your lounge and living spaces look their best; soft lighting and everything in place. It’s party night!
Skip forward an hour, and the guests have arrived. Why is everyone in the kitchen? The rest of the house looks perfect. Don’t they realise how unusual this is? Why aren’t they taking advantage of all those little touches and the great atmosphere you’ve created. Why does the kitchen have such magnetism? And why do your guests insist on hanging out where the chores are happening and where the secrets should be hidden? Let’s try and fathom one of the great mysteries of life.
The heart of the home
Rebecca Paxton at Halcyon Interiors https://www.halcyoninteriors.com says, “These days the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s the most multi-functional space in the house and one that is used to nourish body and mind. It draws people in. It’s a highly social and important room. That’s why its design and feel matter so much to people.”
But its party night and the music is trying to put the pulse in another room, so why are people still congregating in the kitchen? There are a number of theories.
1. Being hospitable to your host
At the point the guests start arriving, the host is often still preparing for some element of the occasion, be it food, drinks or crockery requirements. Polite visitors do not want the host to be isolated or missing out. Perhaps they are offering to help lighten the load, to ensure the host joins the party quicker or just keeping them company. When one person does this, the next feels they should do the same, and before you know if there’s a queue of willing helpers. Often the ‘helpers’ then get distracted from their initial motivation and start talking to each other.
2. The VIP backstage pass
Being behind the scenes in the exclusive zone where the event comes together is a sign of connection and important status. This is surely where you will get the most intimate experience of what is really going on. It’s also a great opportunity to have a nosey in the engine room. The kitchen has an invisible red carpet calling people in.
3. Bees around the honey pot
Some people think the kitchen party zone is simply and easily explained by the fact that it’s where the food and drink are. Sure, the company is important too, but it’s not a party without food and drink. Party consumption rates tend to be higher than usual, so if you are frequently replenishing your supplies, why not hang around where it’s all on tap and where everyone will have to come to do the same?
4. Chill out zone
Perhaps it is precisely because it is away from the music and the main hubbub that the kitchen attracts so many people throughout the occasion. There’s less social pressure, you can regroup under the preface of topping up, or just take time out. It’s a relaxed vibe where you can just be -with no one expecting you to be the life and soul.
The design of our homes
It’s true these days that kitchen design is often given more focus than other rooms. Serving many functions and being used so much, people really want a space that meets the particular needs of their life and family. There are endless magazines and websites dedicated to providing homeowners with the ideas and inspiration they seek, such as the likes of Houzz https://www.houzz.co.uk/photos/kitchen-ideas-and-designs-phbr0-bp~t_10135.
But the kitchen buzz is not just down to the rise in open-plan spaces and social design. The party phenomenon seems to happen in kitchens of every size and space, even if it means guests are standing in front of the fridge and cupboards as the poor host awkwardly tries to access everything they need. Bear in mind also that the Jona Lewie song ‘you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties’ was recorded in 1980!
Things you can do to prevent people from hanging out in the kitchen at parties
So if you are really not happy about the kitchen focus at your event there are a number of things you can do:
- Plan a menu that allows the vast majority of cooking and prep to be done in advance. There are many recipes and ideas for this online, such as those on Good Housekeeping, https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/easy/g4900/easy-make-ahead-meals/. Then you can be elsewhere to meet and greet and set the “not in the kitchen” tone.
- Have a stock of food and drink in the main party space – a container filled with ice and alcohol plus a good stock of nibbles.
- Remove comfy, hover-conducive items from your kitchen such as chairs or stools next to nice clear empty surfaces.
Go with the flow
Best of all, just go with the flow. It’s been happening for years. Kitchens have a certain magic that is too powerful. Appreciate that the party has made you finally tidy those dusty corners whether or not anyone sees them and spend a bit more time dressing that lovely kitchen that everyone just wants to be in. If you can’t beat them, then join them.