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Dinner Party Food Dilemma

We are having a dinner party of 22 people total to meet my son's fiance's family. We were told that their family are strictly "meat and potatoes" people and would rather eat steak and macaroni and cheese than anything else. No one in my entire family eats meat, but we do mostly eat fish. They don't like fish. We are all also vegetable lovers, even the kids...it's just how we grew up. Their family doesn't like salad or vegetables, but they like potato salad, macaroni salad, etc. I wanted to make this easier on myself and just make large batches of a few things. But now I feel like I have to make one dinner for my family and an entirely different dinner for their family. Does anyone have ideas to make this easier on a food level?

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  1. What about pasta? I've thrown dinner parties that were half meat-eating vegetable-phobes and half vegetarians. A big batch of pasta with two sauces -- one meat sauce, one vegetable sauce (maybe a pesto or a roasted red pepper?) and some salad and garlic bread--is pretty easy.

    Or you can do a 'make your own' taco bar and make a big batch of meat as well as a big batch of beans and maybe even some fish?

    1 Reply
    1. re: jmarya

      The make-your-own-taco bar sounds like a winner. Have Carne Asada (grilled beef), Pollo Asada (grilled chicken), and pescado (fish) available with plenty of fixiings.

    2. Remove some of the mystery - ask your son and his fiancé to help set the menu. Tell them you want it to be more about socializing than losing time in the kitchen and that you'd like some or most of the dishes to be something they think others will enjoy. Even better, attach a story to it.

      Neither family could or should have a problem if the choices are ultimately theirs. If so, ignore them.

      If you don't want to do that, make a roast and ham for the meats and sides that your family would prefer. Don't bother making potato salad - bake them, mash them, or buy po-sal premade.

      1. You didn't specify if you are vegetarian, or just not into red meat. What about chicken? You could do roast chicken with a variety of vegetable and starch side dishes so everyone could pick and choose what they like. Put out a basket of good bread and butter and maybe some olives or little appetizers at the beginning, and everyone will fill up on that as well.

        1. Are you planning to serve this as a plated meal or a buffet? If it were me, instead of trying to find one main that would please everyone, I'd do two - sort of a surf and turf approach. A big prime rib roast for the meat eaters and a roasted salmon for the fish eaters. Keep the sides simple with a big green salad, a vegetable side, and a starchy side (mac and cheese or a potato gratin would be perfect). Make large enough portions of everything to make sure you have enough if some people want to sample everything, and you're set.

          1 Reply
          1. re: biondanonima

            A great approach, since there will be so many people.
            Salmon can be done on the grill to free up oven space

          2. If you could make it a casual, picnic style meal....you could do roast chicken or grilled flank stead, then also poached or grilled salmon....and some side salads that would please everyone. Not really two meals....just a couple of main course choices.

            1. I think the nature of the event is causing you to focus on the differences and difficulty. do a simple bbq. WIth a brisket and some tuna steaks for you. do some Mac and cheese for them and some grilled asprgus and a basket or rolls.

              1. Fire up grill. Grill a few steaks, a nice big piece of fish or two, a bunch of vegetables, maybe some corn or potatoes. Serve family style. Grab a drink while you cook and don't sweat the whole ordeal.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    Yep, great approach. And though the invitees may be meat and potato type people, I wouldn't assume that they are overly picky. My Uncle was definitely a meat and potatoes guy, but he enjoyed every holiday meal with great appreciation regardless of what was served. A preference is simply that, a preference, not a mandate.

                    And if all else fails, keep the cocktails flowing.

                    1. I agree with the BBQ idea if you have the equipment/space for it... will make the whole "meeting the new in laws" thing a bit less stressful and casual too.

                      My other thought was lasagna.... since it's 22 people you'd probably need to make 2 anyway, so do one with meat for them, one without for you. Sides could be garlic bread, a big salad, and do like chocolate cake or something like that for dessert. Simple, but good and they'll like it (my SO's family are "meat and potatoes" people too, so I totally get it).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: juliejulez

                        On the BBQ idea, what about a hamburger bar? You can do beef burgers for the in-laws and turkey burgers and veggies burgers for your family. It's great to have a variety of toppings from high to low - caramelized onions, roasted peppers, homemade pickles, to American cheese, ketchup, and mustard. Give them the potato salad and make a nice green salad for yourselves.

                      2. I'd probably do a big Caesar salad, a couple of trays of buttered penne rigate, and then a couple of different sauces: sausage/peppers/marinara, meatballs/marinara, pesto, alfredo. The sausage and meatball ones can easily be done in crockpots and the pesto and alfredo ones take minutes to do just before serving. Add some loaves of crusty bread and butter and I don't see how they can complain.

                        1 Reply
                        1. You have my sympathies. I can't stand picky eaters. They ought to be grateful to have someone cooking dinner for them in the first place, and not be so stubborn and demanding.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Atomic76

                            It's often not about being picky eaters. It's just what they know. I know I hated vegetables until I was well into my 20s because all I had ever had was canned stuff. Besides, OP said that she was told that's what they eat. Who knows, maybe they're more open minded than one thinks. That's why having a few options out might turn out pretty well.

                            And, in my opinion at least, a good host is one that tries to please his/her guests, no matter what their tastes are. I know if I had guests where I knew they didn't like or didn't eat certain things, I wouldn't dream of serving it to them just because I thought it was right.

                            1. re: juliejulez

                              yep..especailly with it being a first " meet the family" meal ... it is not the time to play you you just have never been exposed to a realllllllly good meaty pasta sauce and eggplant parmagania.....it is best to do a nice BBQ with some steaks and nice sides and hearty homestyle "meatandpotato" goodwill welcome to the family meal

                          2. I don't know but I would probably leave out the "that's how we were raised"

                            If it is an issue of you don't cook meat...have it catered or head out to eat