One of my favorite things in the world is to make a delicious dinner. I absolutely love to feed people in a way that says "You matter this much." The more time I spend on other, more immediate things the less time I have to make every meal feel like an occasion. Last night was a refreshing turn back to cooking with extravagance. Not everyone enjoys this and so I try to see it as the gift that it is. I also have been reshaping the way I hostess by realizing that I am a mom and simple is always best.
I don't mean pop open a can or pour something from a box. No, no, no. I just mean to say that if you are thinking about hostessing in a hospitable way the whole thing is quite simple. Have a clean house (especially your kitchen and bathroom) and keep the food basic and delicious.
Here are just a few tips from my years of hostess experience and from my latest revival of the dinner party:
- Clean the day before and touch up the day of... sinks, toilets, and countertops should be spotless! Floors aren't as crucial. If people will be removing their shoes you'll want to be more careful. As long as you've swept and vacuumed within 48 hours you should be good to go.
- Keep your table easy with unscented candles and/or small floral arrangements that sit low on the table... unobtrusive but lovely is what you are looking for.
- Plan your menu, but always shop with your eyes and nose. The perfect example was my plan to cook roasted asparagus last night. When I got to the store the asparagus looked old and much too thick. So I found baby carrots and brussel sprouts instead.
- Know how to time your food. Planning an appetizer helps with this. Make your appetizer to be served immediately and then if you have other food that needs to finish cooking this buys you some time. Don't forget to use warming features on your oven, microwave, or stovetop to hold food at the correct temperature.
- Let dinner digest before serving coffee and dessert. Clear away plates and allow for a bit of conversation before moving to the final course.
- Designate time the next day for the final clean-up. You'll enjoy your time more if you aren't stuck in the kitchen cleaning until all hours of the night.
- Be gracious. Remember how to receive a compliment. Smile and say thank you. Don't downplay your hard work. And remember too that your guest is the most important part. Thank them for coming. Tell them you enjoyed their conversation.
It's not just about the food, it's about what happens over the food.