Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Big Parties
Sometimes, you just have to host a big party. Whether it be for a work situation or major life event. There are two ways to do this, probably more, but two I've witnessed. There's the chicken with your head cut off mode we'll call that chicken little method and then there's the Little Red Hen method.
In Chicken Little, small things become paramount and by the time everyone is there, you're in a frenzied panic and people are concerned about your well being. I'm sure you can figure out how to do that on your own.
Do you know the story of The Little Red Hen? She wanted to make some bread, but had to start from the beginning of plowing the ground and sowing the seed. All along the way, she diligently takes the steps to keep her moving towards bread. She doesn't just wake up one day and try to do everything in three hours. The end result is a loaf that everyone wants to partake in. In the original story she eats the bread all by herself, but hey, not every fictional story lines up perfectly for the use in examples.
The main idea that I've learned in planning big parties while using the Little Red Hen (LRH) method is that planning and pre work are key. I plan menus about things that can be prepped and made in advanced. I've try to keep the house at a certain level of tidy so there's no monster cleaning session the day before. We try to have a light meal before large parties, even if we're serving a buffet. I also use disposable everything. I do as much work in the days before that I can so that I do not have to work the day of. So how about a for instance party.
A few years ago, we had a party for about sixty people and our food theme was pie. I did not waiver from that theme, there was nothing to eat, except pie. I looked at the time to make and the time table of labor that would be involved and decided that frozen pies would be best. Frozen?!?! You may be saying and to that I say,YES! Us introverts have to be casual with the physical energy we expend prepping for big parties. It's not just a social and emotional event, it affects the body as well. Anyway, I had a variety of pies, including cream pies that required defrosting and baked pies, which are best served at room temperature, so they were cooked the morning of. The day before I placed table clothes on our tables and set out serving ware as well as the paper products. We rented large thermal coffee pots with coffee from a local coffee joint. That had to be picked up the day of. We've also used a Keurig for less day of travel. It was fun. People enjoy pie and what could be better than eating pie and hanging out with friends? Afterwards, there were some pie servers to be cleaned in the dishwasher and some garbage to be taken out, but that was the pretty much it. Added bonus, are friends are pretty tidy people so we had a clean house for the next day, too.
We've done similar big parties with different food themes, cookies, dips, sliders. The key is always as little prep on the day of and minimum clean up required. It means we often do finger foods or desserts, but that's okay. Friends are actually coming to see us not our mad cooking skills.
Occasionally, you will need to serve a full meal at a big party. Either have a big bank account to pay for a caterer or just plan on being worn out for a few days afterwards. Catering for large groups is hard work, don't pretend like it isn't.
I actually enjoy big parties in our home. It's a great time to talk with folks and there's a certain peace that happens with LRH method party. The day before when there is nothing left to do, you sigh and enjoy your tidy well stocked home. The day of its friends galore. And then when you say good bye to the last guest, there is another wave of peace that surrounds you. You realize that you've had fun and that your home did its job. You pick up the few random cups and plates and toss them. Then sit down on your couch and enjoy.