Early New Year's Entertaining Resolution [moved from Home Cooking board]
I've come to realize that Sunday evening is my favorite night to entertain: I can cook all day, and I have many meals (in my head) for comforting suppers with friends. So I plan to do this a lot once the holidays are over. My question is this: how well do you know guests before you invite them over? I'd like to expand my guest list. How have you done it?
I'm one of those people that makes friends anywhere and my husband has to stop me from randomly bringing people home for dinner. I generally like to see someone in a social setting first so I can gauge if we're socially compatible (are they appreciative of good food? do they yell at the waitstaff? do they attempt to spear their food on the point of a knife? are there food issues that I need to know about? that sort of thing). If its during summer, I'll invite them over for a BBQ (less formal, less committal and you don't fear people randomly wandering around your house and stealing your silver). After that, I'll have them over to dinner, just the four of us, to get to know them better (and so I know who they will mix well with) and then they get invited to larger dinner parties. At a minimum, we entertain twice a month. During winter, we usually entertain about once a week. Although I try to not expect a reciprocal invite, if I've had them over 3-5 times and they haven't even said "let's go to a resto on such and such date," then I start to back off a little. I say jump in but start small to work out the kinks (like grinding the coffee and prepping the coffee service before the guests arrive). The worst thing people can say is "sorry, I'm busy that night."
One thing I find helpful when trying to expand my circle - I try not to worry about return invitations and other signals that "they like me, they really like me!" I figure that we make the effort, throw it out there, and enjoy the results (having people in our home and enjoying their company). If they never reciprocate, oh well. If they reciprocate a month or a year later, great.
Same with making invitations in the first place, if people seem to have trouble nailing down a date they are available (for example), I assume they have something going on I don't know about (socially phobic husband? weird dietary issues? whatever).
I've been (involuntarily) awake for half the night, so excuse me, please, if this is incoherent.
The single best idea I think I have ever been exposed to in entertaining (beyond my aunt's tip that candlelight hides the dust) was that of a friend who with his wife hosted Sunday night suppers each (and every) week. The tradition even gave him his online moniker, "SundayPasta." Essentially, they held an open house; all of their 'usual suspects,' as well as their kids' friends and co-workers, knew they were welcome for an informal pasta dinner. Additionally, it was a no risk sort of way to invite new people-anyone and everyone-to come join them. Such a happy, welcoming, gracious idea. Good luck!
Believe it or not (wink), there was a time we didn't know our neighbors. Some were more approachable when we first moved on the block, others over time. Socially, we rarely connected beyond walking to the mailbox, warming up the car, raking leaves. Then a community wide yard sale was advertised and the entire block participated. By the end of the day we were all exchanging phone numbers and discussing a block party.
My neighbors are a diverse group of busy people and we've had great fun getting to know them, their kids. Holiday dinner parties and drop-ins are now very typical.
My point? Wonderful conversation, shared food passion and diverse interests can be as simple as walking across the street!
Have a wonderful holiday networking new friends!
This is so funny.....the genesis for my question came from the wonderful summer we had entertaining my college-age son and his friends on Sunday. Eight or so of us would gather, I would be in cooking heaven, and you are so right, they make the most entertaining guests. And then came the fall, and the lovely action came to a halt. If was this series of comfy and crowded summers that made me begin to think about reviving it.......but busy work lives often (or at least in my case) limits friendships.
Thanks for your words of encouragement. I'm starting a list of possible invitees.
onefineleo - hopefully I wont get blasted as off-topic, but I want to share, especially since you have a college-aged kid.
Phone rings, almost 11 p.m. It's son. I answer, thinking the worst. Son say's his campus job has landed him close to my house and is wondering what food I have in the fridge. Could I bring him something?
Result, I drive 5 blocks to bring the Son (security guard working 8 pm to 4 am on foot) a plate of mushroom risotto,a clemantine and a Coke. A friend of his walks up at that moment (HORRORS for a teen) and says: Wow - you are so lucky to have this. I love your mom's cooking. Son agreed.
Friend in question has been a guest at my table, and will be again (not just for the kudos). If you are feeding young people, and talking to them about food
, you are imbuing them with a wonderful future life. Suggestion: if you are cooking for young pepople, invite them into the kitchen to learn, as well. I did this with Son over Thanksgiving, to teach him (again - sigh) gravy-making.
I think I said in an earlier post "invite away," but I feel even better about saying it now. Even if your son is far away for college, you can expend you comfortable suppers to include a lot of young people.
You are definitely in the right track!
onefineleo--just to clarify, you want to invite people OTHER than the 30 who come at holidays? New friends, in other words? I would strike up a conversation about food--maybe a particular dish/cuisine you'd like to try, then invite. It seems like that would work. Encourage them to bring one or two others, maybe? Soon you'd have the right amount, the right faces!
onefineleo - sorry I misinterpreted what you were getting at. Maybe I'm feeling old after all these years and think questions are from those less old (or tired!) than me! :)
I have something to add to BD's new friends thought. I have lately had wonderful food-sharing experiences recently from a couple of different sources. One is my college-aged son's friends, who are inexplicably good dinner partners. If you have the adult "next generation" in your life, it's a surprising source of entertaining enjoyment. and a chance to share what you know.
Also, I talk to the folks at my food co-op about items we never have tried, and sometimes get together to cook them. Sometimes this is a two-person deal, but it could evolve into more. I guess it's about finding people who love food like we do.
I guess I meant what I said about being fearless - you sound like you have the food experience to stand up to the "more-the-merrier" idea, so invite away.
Let us know how it goes.
I would think that you first need to firmly establish for yourself what size a "comforting supper" is. For some, it could be ten people, for others, another couple. If you're just getting started with this idea, perhaps start small and work up.
If I don't know my guests well (usually couples in our case), I will generally start off with having just that couple join my husband and me for dinner. These may be people we have socialized with a few times in larger settings, and we usually have some acquaintances in common. Then watch how the small get-together goes. You get to know a lot about someone over the table. Important considerations for hosting in the future is food tastes, how they interact with the party at large, (fill in your own pre-requisites here...and I'm not kidding- as host, you get to make these decisions) etc. Some people are (let's face it) difficult to cook for. Some people are great in small groups, but either deadly offensive or pitiably uncomfortable in larger parties. Try to get a feel for your guests. I know this sounds rather like social enineering, but isn't all entertaining? Plus, it is considering your guests, after all.
If your new dinner guests seem to have something in common with other dinner partners you know, or express a convivial spirit that makes them blend well, move to the party of six for dinner. So on and so forth. As the host, try to watch for clues as the how the mix works, but remember that most people will be on their best behavior for such events and you shouldn't have to worry.
My Hub and I generally have what we call the post-game-show to assess what worked and what didn't - again, sounds like engineering, but has resulted in quite happy gatherings.
We're all coming off the Thanksgiving holiday and revving up for December holidays, both/all of which means we need to either enjoy or tolerate our family (or some combination of the two). I think it's good to think about what you would LIKE to do for a dinner, and with whom, rather than what you have to do.
Be fearless, but be prepared. Entertaining, and especially entertaining on a larger scale, is something you can build up to. Good luck and have fun!
I may have misrepresented myself. I have been cooking for well over 25 years, with lots of success and interesting experiences. Major holidays will easily fill my house with 30 people. My resolution is about toning down: suppers rather than super. And moving beyond the usual suspects. As in, if someone seems interesting, how does one bring them aboard without it being awkward? In the end, I agree, its always about what feels fun and right for the host. If that works, all else seems to work.
I'm really, right now, about doing things with less caution, and wanted some tips ( and maybe encouragement) on how to make that work.