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Alone, not confident. Think I should try entertaining again. Without any help, or should I just get a caterer?

I hope and feel this fits in the forum. Since my wife passed away, and I’ve added years and become the stereotypical old, quiet neighbor, I have not had anyone over to my home and feel bad about it. Especially because the suburban layout here is like a small enclave with houses often quite close. One couple has invited me over for casual meals and snacks and I have not returned the invitations. :-(

Now all the closest six neighbors, most new, have invited me over once to food and drink get-togethers. My late wife and I entertained, but always in a more formal way, such as sit down dinners, which makes casual entertaining foreign to me, especially on my own. Old neighbors have moved on and I probably will do so in a few months too. I suppose I could just move and maybe, at most, entertain the one couple who has been here the longest and invited me over several times.

Some of my Questions: What kind of casual get-together can I manage alone or hire someone to do? Most neighbors are younger and have young kids. I want to invite families, but what are the kids to do? Some families lay in plenty of beer or wine, and provide food, although sometimes people bring more food/drink, even when not asked. How does that happen?

Should I start out with one family that I owe most return invitations to or just jump right in with a the larger group of about six to ten neighbor families? Is it ok to show some of my more interesting travel videos and pics, if I keep it short?

OK, I did like one suggestion on here in which a couple were just starting out and they were encouraged to have an afternoon get-together with finger foods of all kinds and liquid refreshments. Will this work out OK? I have a deck that can be used in the spring. Also have plenty of inside room.

Suggestions on this entertaining challenge, including what foods are appropriate, will be much appreciated.

 
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  1. No caterer need, just start slow and easy with a burgers/hot dogs get-together -- with all the condiments and fixings like mac, bean, and /or potato salad etc. If anyone offers and they will, ask them to bring green salad, drinks or dessert.,.. remember to relax...

    1. If I were you, I would plan some simple cold appetizers and drinks for the whole neighborhood at once; this time of year people love to catch up (if you live somewhere where snow and cold is a factor anyway). Make it a mid afternoon thing so it's obviously not dinner. You don't have to plan entertainment, everyone will just chat, especially if you're outside. I guarantee that with your circumstances most everyone will offer to bring food. Probably desserts, if they're like my neighbors, which with kids isn't a bad thing. If you have a lawn tell them to bring some soccer balls or whatever to play with and they will amuse themselves. You don't have to hire a caterer, but if there is a gourmet shop locally they could set you up with most of it if you're not comfortable in the kitchen. Cheese and crackers, antipastas, some interesting dips and breads, little sandwiches, things you can just put out on nice platters. Use disposable plates and cutlery, they have gorgeous designs available, and cleanup will be a snap. I bet everyone will help you clean up anyway. I know everyone will appreciate a chance to really get to know each other since they are mostly new, and you will be the hero of the neighborhood!

      1. Agree with the afternoon, easy and relaxing.
        If you are very timid jumping into serving food, you could do a pizza party and order it to be delivered.
        Have on hand, soft drinks, a couple of bottles of wine, some beer, chips, prezels and desserts from a bakery!
        No fuss, no pressure, just easy! Good luck.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mcel215

          How about doing a potluck? You can provide the main entree and have the guests bring side dishes that will work well with it.

          1. re: mymomisthebestcook

            I agree with the pizza or potluck suggestions. People will be glad to contribute and it takes some of the burden off you. Or pizza, which is relatively cheap to provide for a crowd. Honestly, nobody wants or expects anything fancy at GTGs like these, so pizza and pop and plates, maybe a salad, are plenty.

            I think it would be neat if you were to put together some of your pictures on poster board for people to view at their leisure, like sometimes people do at birthday parties or anniversary parties with pictures of "through the years." I wouldn't do videos.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              I agree with not doing a video show. When I'm with people, I'd rather talk than watch a movie or play a game. Just a personal preference. If you had a projector or large TV and could create a slideshow that would be playing on loop somewhere in the background, that would be cool. Those who are interested could watch and talk about them as they please.

              I think if you were doing a cookout and just provided whatever basics you enjoy and are comfortable with, people will love it. At most BBQ's, people just expect some burgers and hotdogs, salads, fruit, and chips. Anything over that is a treat. I'm also guessing that people will be happy to jump in and help you once they get the feeling that you don't mind extra cooks in the kitchen.

              Best of luck and don't worry too much. Far too many people lack hospitality these days and I think you opening your home to people will be well received, no matter what you serve.

        2. Just want to say I'm rooting for you. An outdoor/deck meal of grilled foods, a potluck, drinks and appetizers, whatever works to bring friends and neighbors into your home again.

          I'd also recommend your taking a cooking class at the local community college or cooking equipment store. That will give you a few solid dishes to work with. Call around for suggestions.

          Sincere best wishes.

          1. Where are you located?