Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dinner parties with ease

Last night, we had four people over to dinner. My dearest partner had taken the liberty of extending the invitation without consulting me a few days prior. You can imagine my first reaction – one of incredulous exclamation.

Fortunately I swallowed the “You did WHHAATTT?” that threatened to explode from my mouth and instead took a deep breath and asked, “Well, what are you cooking?”.

Yes, I'm patting myself on the back here for being crafty. I have discovered a stress-free way of dealing with unexpected dinner guests – let C do all the work. My plan evolved as follows.

  • Step 1 – as already indicated, I made it clear that he would be cooking. By doing this, I ensured that it was something easy, as C's repertoire is somewhat limited in scope and imagination (as is mine, but that's beside the point).

  • Step 2 – when I pointed out that we had nowhere to sit 6 people, he immediately suggested we sit outside under the patio. And offered to clean it up. Which he did. All I did was wipe down the table and arrange some chairs. Voila. Dinner setting done.

  • Step 3 – make sure we had actual ingredients to cook dinner with. C had decided on a simple pasta and sauce, but as we only had one jar of sauce in the house, he volunteered to go get some more. Off to the shops he went, coming back with a block of chocolate as well that we could serve with coffee, and two bag of Doritos for entree. Posh, I know, but cheaper than a platter of sun-dried tomatoes and goat's cheese or whatever it is people are supposed to serve these days.

  • Step 4 – our guests wanted to know what they could bring. I said BYO drinks, but they showed up with dessert as well (apple pie and custard). Mental note for next time – ask your guests to bring the dessert course!

  • Step 5 – shower and dress, then relax with a drink until guests arrive.

I was amazed at how well it worked. I was completely stress-free all afternoon, apart from some initial whining at about 4pm that I don't like having people over. The dinner itself went great, and most people had seconds. We were fortunate in that our guests are easy-going and not in the least pretentious, and were completely satisfied with what was served. And so was I!

By the time I was nibbling some chocolate with my cup of hot tea, I was as full as a goog (to borrow my mother's phrase. No, I don't know what a goog is) and a very happy hostess.

So now I've discovered a great formula for keeping things relaxed and tension-free when having people over to eat, I'm interested in your tips. What do you do to make entertaining easy on yourself?

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