Despite my intense interest in nutrition, I believe the highest and best use of food is to forge bonds between people. Food is a natural centerpiece for social gatherings. It puts people at ease, and makes them feel good. It can, if presented correctly, cause us to slow down and connect with one another.
I am blessed with a large extended family and group of friends. It has become our tradition to have frequent large gatherings which I think people really appreciate. Here are ten tips about parties and party food which I have learned along the way.
- Entertain for traditional and nontraditional occasions. It's great to observe birthdays and holidays, but it is also fun to celebrate different things like graduations, the spring equinox, or the Academy Awards. Do not limit yourself to dinners. Brunch and lunch can be fun too, though a great deal of preparation has to be done the night before.
- Partial pot luck is a very successful format. Partial pot luck is, as far as the guests are concerned, pot luck. They are each assigned a dish of your choice and mutual agreement, since you have made sure the menu is balanced. Behind the scenes, you make sure you have a flexible main dish, enough for almost everybody, and good beverages. You may also have your signature dish, which in my case is large fruit platter. That way you have the backbone of the meal covered, in case of no shows and dishes turning out poorly.
- Be aware of any special dietary needs or preferences of your guests. I know it is extra work, but if you want to host you are obliged to have something for everyone. This includes vegans, vegetarians, diabetics, the pregnant and those nursing, the gluten intolerant, and those who do not eat pork or shellfish.
- Set a beautiful table. Be creative. Check Pinterest.
- Serve the meal in stages and take your time. After you take a guest's coat and introduce them, offer them something to drink. We offer things like Perrier, Pellegrino, and club soda. With a sit down meal you can control how fast the courses come out. With a buffet you can do the same the as the dishes go onto and off the buffet table.
- Its a party! Have several courses. Consider appetizers, a fancy salad (with multiple dressings on the side) , main dish, side dish, always a fruit platter with cheese, and at least one dessert. It is fair to have both cake and pie. I usually omit bread, rolls, rice and potatoes. Why ? Because dessert.
- Consider a culinary theme like Mexican, Japanese, Italian, you name it. Rehearse your recipes ahead of time if need be. Do not perform culinary experiments on your guests.
- Go ahead and have a rich fancy dessert. However, be sure to have something savory to go with it, such as cheese. Many people feel poorly with they have a big serving of sweets without anything to buffer it. Always offer coffee and tea afterwards. Be sure to have attractive decaf coffee and tea options.
- Have enough predesignated helpers before, during and afterwards. Make sure no one person is burdened with cleanup. Even a pair of buddies in the kitchen washing dishes can be fun.
- Be confident and know that it does not have to be perfect. Send invitations at least two weeks in advance, and plan the details of the event at least one week in advance and you will be fine !