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entertaining at home's gotten so expensive!

Is anyone else finding entertaining to be a bit hard on the pocket book? In this global economic climate, and due to personal circumstances, I've been feeling it quite a bit lately. I enjoy cooking for friends, but even the ingredients for baking a cake for a birthday seem ridiculously pricey.

I've tried to be pragmatic, have fewer people over at a time, serve simple food, feed them lots of pasta and soup, and while everyone's polite and seem to enjoy the food (whatever's wrong with my savings plan, nothing's wrong with my cooking!), I do sometimes see them looking at the table and thinking, "Where's the meat?".

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  1. I wouldn't think that (even though I am not a vegetarian). An example: the other night we were invited to some good friends' house for dinner. It was a last minute get-together, and the hostess told us it would be simple, just a chance to catch up, enjoy their hot tub, etc. The main dish at dinner was corn chowder. It was spiked with bacon, but just a few pieces, and she added the bacon after cooking to accomodate one other guest who is a vegetarian.

    Several finger food type of side dishes and some bread were served with the dinner. Dessert was fresh fruit, and a lemon merangue pie that another guest brought by special request (made with lemons from his tree; it is his specialty and pretty darn special).

    It never occured to me to miss a more formal, meat centered meal, and there was more than enough food. On the way home I thought to myself that I could entertain more often if I followed my hostess' lead and kept it simple.

    Are you sure you aren't projecting because you feel bad about not being able to always afford steak?

    3 Replies
    1. re: susancinsf

      We are meat eaters, but probably eat meat at home three or four nights out of seven, and even then, it's rarely steak, and not what most would consider 'meat' - a little bit of chopped bacon in a soup or stew, one crumbled sausage in a fried rice dish. Because we're trying to be good savers, and I think it's healthier. But I think the problem is, I live in a culture where meat is an extension of status, and is usually the centre of the meal. Men seem to mind more when it's not there.

      You might be right about the projecting. I think if I could afford steak freely and easily, I would buy it for my guests (or lamb shanks. Or big chickens for roasting. Or a whole fish for grilling).

      Personally, I love the super-simple menus like your friend offered. I just struggle to get away from the stereotypical mentality of: must-have-carb-meat-and-two-veg.

      1. re: Gooseberry

        I think you are right that it is at least in large part a cultural issue. Where I live, and among most of my friends (men included), the carb, meat and two vegie thing is not expected. Indeed, in a lot of cultures and sub-cultures it isn't even wanted. But, some food and eating cultures still are meat centered.

        So, perhaps it would help to think about it as a needed cultural change (given the current economy and your health issues, not to mention the carbon footprint of beef in particular). Time to change that culture!

        In that regard, keep in mind all of the posts I always see on CH about people who complain that they entertain, but aren't invited to others homes. I'd bet a lot of those folks you invite are thrilled to be getting the invitations and really don't care that you aren't serving steak or ribs.

        All that said, I do feel your pain, really. Hubby and I decided to give up beef for a while and to cut back on meat consumption in general, for health, economic and environmental reasons. However, it isn't an absolute ban, and last night I just was really craving a steak dinner. In better economic times I might have headed out to one of the many great local steakhouses, but instead we grilled at home and enjoyed two perfectly medium rare NYs with baked potato, grilled vegies, and a bottle of Cabernet. This is NOT a meal I would serve to guests, not the least because those two steaks cost about $25 (high quality beef) , but now and then when the craving hits, I give in.....

        1. re: susancinsf

          And of course, you are money ahead compared to going to a restaurant for a steak dinner. And I bet the wine was better!

    2. We invite people to dinner for their company and share good food and the moment. You've generously opened your home, heart and wallet to host in the first place - you have no reason to be hard on yourself. Your not their mother - let them help, bring a salad, a side dish, dessert, a bottle of wine and you spend what you can afford on the meat course. They'll be happily contribulting to the event, be more social and appreciative, everybody wins!!!

      Yes it is expensive, but so is going out to a great restaurant. Try to put things in context and feel blessed that you have the talent and confidence to make even the simplest of fare enjoyable.

      1. I went to my bff's on Saturday. We are are both on a budget; she served a tri-tip (bought at Costco) corn on the cob, string beans, and for apps, yummy whole wheat (store bought) bread. We had a nice cheese, strawberries, and crackers for an app. Decent (not over the top but yet a drinkable) chard and again, not over the top but a lovely cab with dinner. My husband made a wonderful blueberry tart for dessert. What made this dinner cost-effective was that there were pleaty of leftovers; enough for two lunches. This made it quite cost-effective for both couples.

        1. Ehh, it's summer--you can serve salads, fresh vegetables, and pasta, etc. If you need to serve meat, serve cheaper cuts, like sausage and chicken thighs.

          1. Our recent BBQ for 11 folks cost $280. Not so much cost-wise, but I'm too tired to do that again....