Typically at my dinner parties, everyone eats standing around for at least part of the time. People get hungry, smelling enticing smells while they drink and talk in the kitchen, and start tearing into loaves of bread, dipping and smearing, and looking for where to put olive pits and radish tops. Kids’ mouths go green as a gang of them get to work with the chips on a bowl of guacamole. If I’ve made bagna cauda, it goes fast too. Bagna cauda—hot fragrant anchovy sauce to dip raw turnips into—might sound, to some, more like the end of the party than the beginning, but my experience tells a different story. Everyone, even the kids, loves bagna cauda.
Sometimes, however, the company isn’t right for dips and we need to eat it, whatever it is, another way. Times like when the guests are awkward with each other, meeting for the first time. Or it might be that it’s too cold in the backyard and we want to come in and sit, and the table is too big for everyone to reach. Or maybe I’m just feeling fancy. So I put this dip on plates, and everybody gets one! It’s more polite, sure, but no less fun, and as a bonus it helps to avoid squabbles and stains.