Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Entertaining 101

My husband and I love to entertain. We both like to cook. He's better and faster than I am. He's also a back-seat chef so he does most of the cooking, otherwise I'm liable to hit him with a frying pan. I like to bake and I'm damn good at it. They call me "Cupcake". Okay, they don't actually call me that but I wish someone would.

We very much enjoy having people in our home, plying them with delicious food and libations. We've been told we do it with flair. We have all the appropriate accouterments: bread bowls, olive dishes, appetizer plates, etc. I've even got fancy martini glasses with squiggly stems which are quite the challenge to hold after consuming 1 or 4.

My point is that, apparently, this doesn't come naturally to everyone. As a matter of fact, there are people out there who can't put together the simplest BBQ or Picnic lunch without horrifying their guests. I won't say how I know this. I just do.

Here's a quick list of what to do and what not to do when you invite people over. I know this sounds like common sense, but believe me, it is NOT.

1.) No surprise guests unless it's a big party. For an intimate gathering, people should know who, or what to expect when they get there. It's not nice to show up and find out your the only college friend among colleagues.

2.) If people don't know each other, make introductions, especially before leaving them alone together while you go tend to preparations. No joke. People skip this obvious and essential step all the time.

3.) Beverage should be cold (or warm if your serving coffee or something like it) and ready. They should not still in a box on the kitchen counter that you let people forage around for. It's a dinner party, not a treasure hunt.

4.) Don't ignore your guests. If you need to tend to things in the kitchen, invite them along or if you're a couple, divide and conquer.

5.) Have appropriate seating available. Believe it or not I've heard of rock-hard backless benches for 4-hour dinner parties, plastic lawn chairs in the living room and even adults being seated at child-sized tables.

6.) Have food to serve shortly after arrival. Appetizer, veggies, chips...anything. It's simply rude to keep your guests hungry. They came, expecting food and probably didn't eat McDonald's in the car on the way over.

7.) Have enough food. If you never have a single piece of food left over, you are doing something wrong. People shouldn't have to awkwardly drooling over the last cheese-laden Ritz.

8.) If you have children, mind them. Nobody is expecting little angels but they shouldn't be sticking the carrot sticks up their noses and then putting them back either.

9.) Clean your freakin' house first. 'Nuff said.

10.) Okay, maybe not enough. If you are cooking in front of people, whether on a grill or in your kitchen you should be cooking on equipment as if the health inspector is about the walk in. This is not a "Greasy Spoon".

11.) Know your strengths. For goodness sakes, if you can barley boil water, order in. If you're a basic cook, stick to the basics. Don't attempt Beef Stroganoff if your specialty is opening a can of Beefaroni.

12.) Don't kill your guests. You don't win friends with food poisoning.

13.) Hide your penny pinching. If you're going to buy all generic brand stuff, disguise it by taking it out of the packaging. Decant your stop and shop ketchup into a bowl with a serving spoon. Plate your A&P cookies on a pretty plate. Your guests don't need to know that they are only worth a $2.99 apple pie.

14.) Have everything your guests will need. Utensils, napkins, plates, soap in the bathroom, toilet paper. Make sure there's some extra toilet paper visible too so they don't have to go rummaging around under your sink.

15.) Don't be rude. Don't abandon your guests for the football game or go off and play with your dog for hours at a time.

Basically, if you don't like people, don't invite them over. If you've invited them over, then, theoretically, you'd want like them to come back again. You don't have to be Martha Stewart, in fact, I'd rather you not, but nobody wants to have dinner with The Clamppett Family either.

However, if your goal is to get these so-called friends to hate you and never, ever want you to invite them over again, then, by all means, do the exact opposite of what I've said here. Either way... you're welcome.

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