I am an old soul. When I was in high school I would invite my girlfriends over some Saturday mornings and cook brunch while playing Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong in the background. I created the Senior Citizen Club with a group of girlfriends my senior year of college in which we would gather together at someone’s apartment, play jazz music, eat cheese and crackers and drink wine. I listen to the local jazz station and NPR on my way to work every morning. You get the picture.
To this day one of my favorite things to do, when I have time that is, is to throw a dinner party for my friends and family. Although I am a major advocate of the supper club gathering as I like to think of it, I have sadly realized that it social art is starting to die. That is not to say that foodies across the country are not constantly thinking of new pop up restaurant themes and organizing secret eating societies. I am sure for them every night is an elaborate dinner party. I am talking more in terms of my generation of 9 to 5er’s. Those in their 20’s and 30’s and work all day to then rush to spin class, take their dogs for walks, run errands, heat up some leftovers in the microwave and plunk down on the couch to watch Real Housewives, or like the news or something.
This is the daily lifecycle of so many of my 20 something friends. They are constantly busy and, when they do have a free moment to spare, it is not spent trolling through Whole Foods isles or planning menus. I understand that I am different as I love to cook. Cooking is where I am relaxed. It is my yoga, so to speak. It brings balance between my stomach and mind. I think a lot of my friends often claim they have no time to cook simply because they do not like to and thus do not want to make time for it. Living in the city you are exposed to so many wonderful restaurants of various cuisines. Why would you stay in and slave over the stove? Why? Because it is essential. They will all one day get married and start a family. They will begin budgeting even more so than they are now and putting more money towards pampers rather than perfume than they ever thought possible. Nights in when the kids are in bed early are ones to savor. Eating out every night and ordering in will no longer be a sustainable option.
So how do we solve this issue of not liking to cook and not really knowing how? My solution: throw a dinner party. Here are some hacks that will make for a fun and stress free night with friends that will help you embrace the arts of the pots and pans:
- Host with a Friend– If cooking is not your forte it is easy to get stressed in the kitchen, especially if you are cooking for several people. Have a close friend plan the menu with you and help cook. Having an extra hand around not only makes preparing your dishes easier but can make for a fun time before the guests arrive.
- Stay within You Comfort Zone– If you are not an experienced chef there are plenty of sites online that offer novice level recipes that will make you look like a pro. Do not set your standards too high right out of the gate.
- Choose a Theme– By picking a theme for the dinner it will make the event feel that much more like a party as oppose to a meal gathering. Select a theme that you guests will get excited about and therefore will want to contribute too. When you see your guests having a good time that will help to alleviate your cooking stress and get into the good vibes.
- Create a Playlist– For me, listening to music while I cook helps me to get in to mode. Whether you choose to listen to French music and imagine yourself in a quaint French café or Big Band that takes you to the streets on New Orleans, music can really influence how you cook and the amount of love put into your dish.
- Decorate in Advance– If you want to put up any decorations for the dinner party, do so the morning of, that way when it gets time to cooking that is all you have to focus your attention on. This also includes setting up the bar, which brings me to my next point…
- Make it BYOB– Dinners parties can be difficult to throw when you are on a tight budget. To help minimize the costs have your guests bring their own alcohol. This also eliminates the time it will take to figure out everyone’s beverage preference and trying to track them down in various liquor stores. As the dinner part host you are supplying the food and the atmosphere. Everything else can be placed on your friends.
- Delegate the Small Stuff-If you are really on a budget and are worried about the price of food, assign guests light fare to bring. Have someone bring a dip, maybe another a salad or light appetizer and another dessert. This will also allow you to focus on the main entrée and reduce the amount of time it will take you and your co-host to get everything ready.
- Invite Good Company– Since you are new to dinner parties invite people who love who will just appreciate your efforts. They will not judge every bite and every inch of décor but rather tell great stories, laugh and enjoy the atmosphere. You want to be surrounded by people who will appreciate and encourage your cooking efforts, not get judgmental and jealous because you cooked the shit out of that Filet Mignon and they secretly want seconds.