Today I cooked dinner (known as ‘lunch’ to the rest of the normal world) for the crew. We have about 15 full time employees here on the ranch, and they generally eat both breakfast and ‘dinner’ at the cookhouse.
The heart of the ranch (where the cookhouse is), is about 20 minutes outside of town, but during branding season, most of the work gets done in town, so it just makes sense for everyone to eat there rather than all head back to the cookhouse. And by town, I mean where our house is – yep the same place with one gas station, and one post office (open 12-4).
I took over duties today, and welcomed everyone into our home. At about 11 o’clock, I got SUPER stressed, worried that I wouldn’t be able to serve the food on time (ranchers are on a tight schedule because cows can totally tell time). I tried to stay calm, but at one point I was rolling out pie dough and simultaneously chopping bell peppers, with beans and rice on the stove. I remembered one of my cardinal rules for entertaining: ask for help when you need it.
So I called up one of the wive’s who usually cooks at the cookhouse, to ask for a little bit of help. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to keep my cool, so just remember – if you have a helping hand, swallow that pride, and take it. Here are seven other mistakes I’ve made in the past, so you never have to make them yourself!
Planning too elaborate of a meal: Can we have a moment? Your guests seriously don’t care about chicken cordon bleu. They just don’t. They’d be just as happy with your tried and true lasagna recipe that you’ve made ten thousand times (and that can be made ahead of time, I might add). I know it’s tempting to prepare an extra special meal for your extra special guests, but if you haven’t made the recipe before, or the recipe requires more than thirty minutes of hands on cooking time before it can be served, save it for nights with your husband when you can cook it together!
Worrying too much about every detail: Your guests aren’t going to snoop through every room of your house (unless they ask the dreaded question: “So, give us a touuuuuur!?”, which my mother does everywhere she goes). Then you better hope they don’t poke their nosey noses into the junk closet where every kind of unslightly piece of clutter was thrown thirty minutes before their arrival. In reality, though, they aren’t going to go into your guest room or master bath, so don’t stress over cleaning those like you’ve never cleaned before. Focus on the areas they will be spending time, and give yourself a time limit. Why? Because I know just how tempting it can be to “reorganize Jake’s soccer stuff in the basement” when you get into cleaning mode. So make a list, stick to it, and don’t spend more than an hour doing it.
Spending all of your time in the kitchen: Um hello! Your friends are there to spend time with YOU! If your meal is super hands on, refer back to number one. Otherwise, remove yourself from the kitchen, pour yourself a drink, and enjoy the company of your friends.
Forgetting those few noticeable things: Your guests might not be sticking their noses into every room of your home, but they’re probably going to be using the guest bathroom more than once, and they’re probably going to need to hang their coats somewhere. It’s important to spend your time prepping those spaces, and making them extra special. I like to light a candle in the entryway, and have fresh flowers and fancy soap in the guest bath. This might be taking it a little over the top, but I was recently at a friend’s house, and her guest bath, she had placed out neatly rolled wash cloths and a little hamper basket to put them in when you were finished. Ya know, like at a shmoozy hotel? I felt really fancy and really special.
Forgetting to put out refreshments ahead of time: There’s nothin worse than having to get up and sit down one hundred times to offer beverages. It might help you get those steps in, but it’s not helping you mix and mingle! Instead, try putting out drinks ahead of time in a little bar area, bonus if you have cheese and crackers set out too.
Assuming all of your guests like “insert flavor here”: I like to casually mention what I plan on cooking when I invite someone over.
“Hey! We wanted to use some of the curry paste we picked up in Thailand last month, and were thinking of having a few people over, we’d love it if you could join us!”
That way, any flavor or ingredient that they are highly objective to (read: allergic), can be discussed ahead of time, instead of in the moment when you’re sitting down to eat.
Don’t assume that all of your friends are going to like the Mexican spices you picked up the last time you were traveling, and most certainly don’t assume all of your guests like their food ‘Thai Hot’ (ie: death by spice). If you plan on making something unique, just make a quick mention of your menu when you send out the invite, but if you’re making lasagna or pizza – you’re probably in the clear (if you know someone who doesn’t like lasagna, then you can probably take this moment to unfriend them. Just keeping it real here.).
Not having a great time: This is rule numero uno! You’ve got to have a good time sister! If you’re prepared, and relaxed, your hostessing skills will take care of themselves. It’s when you allow yourself to become stressed out and frantic that you start to self implode! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: gathering, in your home, with your friends, is one of the most intimate things you can share with them. They obviously already love your awesome self, so please stop worrying about everything being perfect! Make a list, check it twice, then pour yourself a glass of your favorite rosé, and enjoy your company.
What are your favorite ways to entertain? Let me know in the comments below!