My happy place is around the dining table. My parents have a brilliant one - it's kauri and was made by my great-great grandfather in the 1880s and we have had it for as long as I can remember. It was always the centre of our family interactions. That table was where we went to talk, work, celebrate, get told off, fight and make up.

When I was growing up, dinner was a big deal at our place - we all sat down together most nights to eat and talk to each other. We would talk about what was happening at school or work and what was going on in the world. If you were old enough to talk you were expected to contribute.

They weren't always amicable discussions. The older we got the more opinionated we became and often one of us would play devil's advocate just to get a fracas going.

For us it seemed normal and it wasn't until we had guests that we would have to be reminded that extremely loud discussions about the morality of wealth and whether or not religion is a form of mass mind control may not be appropriate when nana comes to tea.


We also had a pretty open-door policy and lots of times people would turn up for meals unannounced. Mum and Dad always welcomed them brilliantly as though they had secretly hoped they might turn up.

It was a real lesson for me about how important it is to make people feel welcome and it's something I've tried to replicate wherever I've lived.

Having people over to eat is still my favourite thing. I love the intimacy of making a meal for people and the brilliant conversations that, for me, are at their best when people are sharing food.

I also love all the things that sitting at a dinner table can teach you about manners, generosity and how important hospitality is to a community.

As a kid, I always envied friends who were allowed to eat in front of the telly. But looking back I think that, more than any other ritual we had growing up, those dinners did the most to help make me who I am now. I suppose that's a small price to pay for missing Knight Rider.

Sam Snedden is an actor, producer and venue manager at the Basement Theatre. Snedden stars in a gothic fairytale, The Pitchfork Disney, at the Loft at Q Theatre on Queen St until June 29. See, ph (09) 309 9771.

- as told to Bronwyn Sell