The space is tight and the lighting is terrible, so why is the most crowded room at a party always the one where food is prepared? We’re just following our most basic human need for comfort and interaction, according to Jeanne Arnold, a UCLA professor of anthropology, who notes that “humans in groups around the world tend to gather around the hearth, whether it’s a campfire or a modern oven.” Apparently that toasty La Cornue fulfills our innate yearning for fire—plus it provides the added security of knowing where the food resources are. Want guests to mingle elsewhere? Set up “mini hearths” around your home—a fondue pot in the living room, say, or a cupcake-decorating station in the den—to attract smaller and more dispersed gatherings.
Illustration by Kirsten Ulve