I’m laying it out there for all of my loyal readers: I secretly want to be Martha Stewart (Note to BAC: minus the insider trading of course. I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start on that one).
I love to entertain, despite the stress and the fact I can’t fit many people at my house. I have dreams of having a giant formal dining room and hosting dinner parties with place-cards and parting gifts, with fresh flowers in the bathroom. And I will pull this off single handedly and calmly, enjoying dinner as I slip the apron off of my little black dress I’ve spilled nothing on.
My reality of entertaining is nothing like that. I usually spend a few weeks panicking over the menu. I always want to have a theme (for example, J’s last birthday theme was comfort food). All the food has to go well with each other (the exception is the calzone my mother in law always brings. No one else seems to care, although it secretly stresses me out when she brings ham & cheese instead of chicken parm to an Italian themed meal). I try not to make the same thing twice in a row, as if anyone can remember what we had for Christmas present opening the year before. I always want to make something different, but that makes me nervous because I worry it will come out wrong. Every once in a while I force myself to just make something easy and buy a bag of salad, but those are not my finer moments as a hostess.
Next comes the prep. I try to make as much in advance as possible. Crockpots are the best for parties. Whatever I can’t make in advance, I prep. I cut up the herbs & veggies, measure out the portions, have the pan on the stove, etc. I always prep the condiments and serving wear as well. For make your own tacos, the cheese, sour cream, scallions & guacamole get their own little bowls, covered in saran wrap, awaiting to be placed on the table. The crackers are plated and wrapped, waiting for the pre-cut & bagged cheeses to meet them on the coffee table. The first bottles of wine are opened, the coffee is in the pot waiting to be turned on at just the right time.
I should add that I do not get these anal qualities from my mother. She pulls off dinners & events with seemingly little effort. When J & I walked into my parent’s house on Christmas, 3 hours before the 12 family members were due to arrive, the house was a disaster and everyone was in their PJ’s. I almost had a heart attack right in the kitchen. But somehow it got pulled off, everyoneate on time, and everything was good & hot. And she didn’t even have the cheese for the salad pre-cut! She’s amazing.
I think I get this entertaining gene from my mom’s younger sister. She used to host Christmas Eve, and one day I opened a cabinet above her stove and saw a list of the hot appetizers, with their cook temps & times, and a schedule of when they needed to go into the oven. I make that list in my head now, but if I had that many people over, I’d write it down too. My family was 30 minutes late for dinner last night, and I had to inform them that they missed the appetizer window of opportunity. (I was kidding. Kind of).
One of my biggest stresses is what other people bring. Now, I appreciate help from others, I really do, but if they bring something I didn’t know about, it totally throws me off. I didn’t plan for it! There’s no room on the table/in the fridge/I don’t have a serving platter & spoon set out! I almost had an anxiety attack on J’s birthday worrying that his aunt would bring cold mac & cheese, but she didn’t let me down and it was nice & warm, just needed a few minutes in the oven that I had previously scheduled for.
I know, I’m anal. And even with all this prep, I still usually don’t get to enjoy my parties. But that’s okay, because I’m getting better. I’m starting to realize that a nice dinner does not have to have three veggie choices and two kinds of bread. And that people are really okay with one light appetizer. One day I’ll have all my entertaining dreams come true, and be just like Martha. Maybe that will free up some time for the handwritten invitations to my dinner parties…