Entertaining at Home With Ease
is a book co-written by my late mother-in-law, Dr. Marjorie Stewart. Her main point about dinner parties is make it easy for yourself and that, in turn, will make it easy for everybody else.
Do as much preparation as you can the day before so you’re less rushed the day of. And, when you’re pulling the meal together and your guests are there, involve them in it. Doing so decreases the amount of work you have to do, thereby lessening the frazzle factor and it allows the others to feel invested in the meal and the evening. They helped. These are valuable things to remember.
There are few feelings worse than being a guest for dinner and sitting there twiddling your thumbs, feeling absolutely useless, while you know your hostess and/or host are frantically organizing food and plates and cutlery. I’ve done both – sat like a garden ornament, and been the frantic cook trying to pull the meal together, set the table and serve hoping only that I didn’t look half as frazzled as I felt.
Sometimes it’s just easier to do the cooking yourself. Too many cooks spoil the broth, as the saying goes. But, to the extent that your kitchen and the meal itself allow, involve your guests in the preparation. Unless they really really want to, I don’t involve them in the clean-up. Time enough to do that after they’ve left. If they aren’t showing signs of leaving when you wish they would, you can always then ask “do you want to wash or dry?” That should get them hunting up their coats and saying their goodbyes.
What I’ve learned about entertaining? Cook what you know and know what you’re cooking, do as much prep work as you can beforehand, don’t lose track of what you’re planning to serve, get everyone involved if you need to and always make some extra. Often the second day’s meal, made from the leftovers, is better than the first. Lastly, if it’s really good or really awful, people will remember it and talk about it – and, yes, laugh about it. So will you, in time, even the really really awful meals.