Ask A Woman: It’s a Party in the USA
If you’ve got a question that needs the female treatment, chances are you’re not the only one who wants to ask it. Beth is our source for the answers. From opinions on men’s style to decoding the sometimes mysterious ways of women, she’ll take on a different question every Thursday. She also might provide an answer without waiting to be asked. That happens from time to time too. Click here to get to know Beth, then get in touch with her by sending your question to: email@example.com .
Unknowingly, I seem to be writing a three-part series about the home. Dressing for home, furnishing your home, and now, entertaining at home. How clever of me to cap it off this way–back pat! Today’s post ties in nicely with one from this week on our better-half site, The Pretty Guinea Pig. If you love to cook and entertain, I would encourage you to pop on over there and take a look. It has a lot of detail on preparing and executing a dinner party (and easily marked sections so you can skim to find the parts that are most interesting to you). But of course, not everyone needs that level of information. So today I’m going to share a scaled down version here, and touch on some additional points that might be more relevant, stereotypically-speaking, for the dude contingent.
What kind of crazy dame are you? Why would I want to throw a dinner party?
A fair question. You can easily go out to dinner and pay someone else to do all the cooking, or go the cheaper route and invite a bunch of people over for pizza and beers. Here’s why: it’s fun. Yes, some of you might be giving that explanation the side eye. But if you like to cook at all, or you want to learn to cook, this is a great way to use and develop those skills. Cooking is much more enjoyable when you have an audience to feed. Ever notice how if you’re the only one eating dinner and your partner or roomates are out, you might just pour a bowl of cereal or pop some frozen waffles in the toaster? That’s because eating (and by extension, cooking) is a communal event; we talk, we connect, we bond over food.
If that’s not enough of a reason, how about practical uses? Trying to impress your significant other’s parents? Want to get in good with a coworker or influential person at work? Simply trying to establish friendships when you’re new to an area? Throw a dinner party. It’s a useful skill to have. Yes, throwing a dinner party is a skill, or rather, a collection of skills, like cooking, time management, and the art of hospitality (more reasons why throwing a dinner party is fun–it’s challenging and requires you to think on several different levels).
Another option: Ignore all my advice and throw a Jan-and-Michael style party.
Okay, I’m interested. How do I pull one of these off?
Invite a manageable group of people. A dinner party can consist of three people and be a great time. So start small if you’re feeling intimidated. If that’s not the case for you and you want a bigger group, invite couples who already know and like each other, or consider playing friend match-making by inviting people whose only commonality is that they know you.
Plan ahead. Pick menu items that make sense together (you probably don’t want to serve Beef Teriyaki Crisps as an appetizer if you’re already serving steak for the main course). Then grocery shop for all your items a day or two in advance so that you’re not rushed the day of. Do as much prep as possible in advance–chopping vegetables, marinading meats–all of this can be done in advance as long as you store it properly.
Clean your residence. Remember this post in which I shamed you all into cleaning? Revisit it. It’s going to be hard for people to enjoy their cocktails with tumbleweeds of dog hair blowing by. If you’re feeling really zany, buy fresh flowers and put them in a vase on the coffee table (quick tip: for a typical bouquet, the flowers should be twice the height of the vase, so measure then trim accordingly).
Set a nice table. Non-paper plates, cloth napkins, coasters. In a way, you’re putting on a show for your guests. The environment in which you serve the meal will either add or detract to the overall enjoyment of the experience.
Show them a good time. When your guests walk in the door, offer drinks right away. Have an appetizer or snack available within 20 minutes of their arrival. 30-60 minutes after that, serve dinner. Find the balance between shoving dinner at them the moment they walk in the door and making them wait 3 hours while that Osso Bucco cooks.
Note that you can apply versions of these tips to ANY time you have people over. Superbowl party, housewarming event, Memorial Day BBQ–these are all occasions where you want to provide good food and drink in an inviting atmosphere and ensure that everyone enjoys themselves. Happy hosting, fellas.
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