NIGELLA Lawson is the pinnacle dinner party figure. She’s painted by her television programmes as the sumptuous hostess archetype. Her name sits atop cookbooks such as At My Table and she welcomes you into her home as a very pampered guest. You can hear her whisper “any more red?” as she hovers over your shoulder, ready to refill. Yet somewhat surprisingly, she told the BBC: “I’m not a formal dinner party person.”

There are weird presuppositions about dinner parties. The belief you need a seating plan with intricate place names and table setting; or wine which is partnered perfectly with the “notes” - whatever they refer to - of the main course; and perspicacious conversation which ignites polite debate. Long associated with “entertaining”, the dinner party has a reputation of an event which “entertains” awe and grandeur about one’s culinary skills and home furnishing,

The Times’ columnist Charlotte Edwardes spoke about dinner parties she can’t seem to get an invite to where “there is a fashionable game called gen-con being played… where the host will tap a glass and announce a structured “general conversation” about the topic du jour — presumably Brexit or how many sub-factions there are now in the People’s Vote campaign, or whether a safety pin should ever cost £325, even if it is made by Balenciaga to wear as an earring.” No soiree is alike, however this sort of contrived affair is what gives the dinner party a bad name.

There are some stereotypes about the dinner party which do ring true, however. That deeply rancorous feeling hours before friends arrive and sitting alone with a Deliveroo and Netflix never sounded so appealing. The realisation that you need a playlist; the scraping of plates must have a backing track that both appeases the friend who worships Britney and the I-go-to-alternative-gigs-and-enjoy-them friend.

By the time you’ve handpicked a song selection which you are horrendously insecure about, you’re behind schedule on the totally unrealistic plan you had to produce an ostentatious selection of crudites that will leave everyone too full for the main course.

Hosting goes hand in hand with flapping, fidgeting and fretting. Certain articles in The Guardian may encourage you to believe this is the beauty of hosting; the slowly accumulating stress that makes you re-evaluate whether you would rather be in this position or simply have no friends at all, with the latter being ever more attractive. A frenzied dash to the shop to splash out on luxury products and buy that extra-special supermarket hummus in the hope it will firmly etch this evening as a night to remember.

Having your friends over should not induce gut-wrenching fear over whether you, your home, your food, your music taste or your conversation topics are good enough.

Like Nigella, I’m not into formal dinner parties. There are no strict rules, just common sense. Try not to arrive sharply on time, but if you do, you cut the strawberries. There will be no seating plan, just seat yourselves accordingly; why not make the night interesting and sit next to that one friend you find a bit bland? We all have one.

If you’re bringing dessert, there is no shame in bringing something you didn’t craft by hand. Although if I've made my love of your white chocolate rocky road known, use your common sense. Even using the exhausted and quite inaccurate cliche everybody-likes-cheesecake to guide your choice of pudding isn’t a sin (Although, for future reference, I’d say it’s more “everybody-will-eat-cheesecake”).

If you’re lucky enough to get your partner an invite - which I’m sure they’re thrilled about - try not to bring your arguments to the table. However at the end of the day, if we’re friends, it shouldn’t matter if the odd snide comment slips out. My dinner parties are not obliged to take place around a table - many of us don't have one these days. If you’re coming round for dinner and there’s at least two of you, we’re having a dinner party.

At my dinner parties, you’re my friend, not a guest. What’s mine is yours and the like. That means: give a hand with the dishwasher once dinner’s done and ignore me when I tell you “No, I’ve got it”. Help out with prep if you’re early, but don’t get in the way when I’m trying to disembark my pasta bake from the oven shelf in one piece. Put your alcohol wherever you can muscle it in the fridge and take it home at the end of the night; it’s not mine for keeping. Talk about why you voted Leave, Pep Guardiola, veganism, self-checkouts, Jo Swinson, Kanye’s new album, cultural appropriation, why you can’t relate to your boyfriend, the weather, private schools. There is no agenda. All you need to bring are basic table manners and a sense of humour.

Maybe we should just drop the term dinner party entirely. These people are your friends, not guests. Naturally there’s the odd plus one you may not know as well, but this is the beauty of gathering to eat together. A dinner party is having friends over; the atmosphere you create together is what makes it a party. Make your own rules. And a little (dinner) party never killed nobody. Just don’t forget the white chocolate rocky road.