kitchen anxiety disorder
Does anybody else have a kitchen anxiety disorder that surfaces when they are cooking for others? I am a good, albeit somewhat freestyle, home cook and whenever I try to cook for people that are not in my immediate family, I mess up big time. It is just odd, things never taste the same; as if when I try more, my food tastes worse. Any resolutions from people who might have experienced this?
My suggestion, always a good thing when looking to entertain, is make ahead as much as you can, including prepping ingredients for anything you plan to cook while guests are present and cleaning the kitchen.
When people arrive, have them help, especially when the kitchen is a gathering point. Someone else can put the salad together, etc. even if it isn't exactly as you would have done it.
It also helps to write down what you are going to do to get the last minute dishes done, step by step. This helps you remember everything in the excitement.
I agree with doing as much as possible ahead of time. Most desserts can be made in well in advance, as can salad dressings and soups. I also think it's wise to stick to recipes that you know backwards and forwards - never try something new on guests for the first time! Keep things as simple as possible - maybe a braise or lasagna in winter and some simple grilled meats and veg in summer. I used to go all out trying to impress but it was very stressful for me so now I simplify so I can enjoy my guests and our time together.
I can relate, somewhat. I'm fine as long as folks aren't standing over me and talking and trying to engage me. I need to be in "the zone" and there's no room for chatting. When I try to talk and cook... that's when things go wrong. Ideally, I would have a kitchen that is closed off from the living room. Unfortunately, I don't.
Try going by some simpler dishes that are going to be easier to prepare, maybe make some things ahead of time before people arrive. If you're worried about being consistent then go by recipes and techniques you've practiced with when you cook for others. Make sure your ingredients are as fresh as possible also.
Then when you're free to experiment another time, definitely do that! And make up your own recipes when there's no pressure.
Yup. As you described, when I'm cooking for myself, I'm "freestyle" but when I'm cooking for someone else I feel like it has to be perfect and fabulous. Even when my guests seem happy with something, I'm often dissatisfied because it fell short of my own expectations. That said, I rarely "mess up big time" (at least, not since the time my duck with 40 cloves of garlic went flying across the room when I tried to carve it, and I ground the beans too finely for my French press coffee pot and got sludgey coffee!).
Absolutely plan ahead and make as much as possible ahead. I'm big on lists, and often go through a recipe and mark exactly the point where it can be done in advance without losing quality. I actually had a dinner a few months ago where I finally achieved a long-time goal of not having a huge pile of pots, pans, utensils and dishes filling every surface of my kitchen halfway through dinner from last-minute prep. Of course, no one cared but me, but I considered it a major victory.
You don't mention this, but I learned the hard way never to 'guinea pig' guests on an untried recipe no matter how easy the prep seems and fabulous the presentation looks. Have a repitoire of 'foolproof' meals for company, got to a good bakery for dinner rolls and dessert, and do what EdAd says..do ahead whatever you can.
The probability of messing something up is directly proportional to the importance of the guest.