Since the name of this blog is Eat and Greet, I figured I should probably start paying closer attention to the "greet" part. And that means entertaining. I think that the reason most people in their 20's (or in general) are intimidated by entertaining a group of people is because of false preconceived notions. "I can't afford it," or "I don't have enough time," or worse, "I like can't cook anything." Because you know what? The answer to all three of those questions is "Yes, I can."
Why do I feel like I'm not really responsible for the coining of that phrase?
Anyways, I'm a firm believer and advocate for entertaining on a budget. And you know why? Because I love to entertain and I love to do it often. And in order for that to fit into both my lifestyle and my budget, I've got to be smart about it. Now is not the time to serve a large fillet of salmon for six. But it could be the time to incorporate a smaller piece of salmon into a pasta dish with the addition of some red onion, lemon, dill, and a touch of cream. It's all about finding ways to stretch your dollar without sacrificing an ounce of flavor.
There's a straight forward, top of the trees guide to entertaining for beginners on Apartment Therapy that's worth taking a look at. And then a couple of supplementary pointers of my own?
1. Delegate. I know, at least for me, it's hard to give up control of a menu once it's planned but if you're inviting people to your home for dinner and they ask you if they can bring anything, perhaps you should take them up on their offer. But in this way: ask them (politely of course) to bring one ingredient each for the starter course, perhaps. (My lovely dinner companions for this evening know all about this.) This alleviates you of paying for however many people you are having over to dine and gets others involved. Invite them to help you chop some veggies, flex those culinary muscles and show them a thing or two. It'll be fun and informative for them and (hopefully) make things easier for you.
2. Alcohol. BYOB. Always.
3. Make simple, casual food. I can't take full credit for this as Miss Rachael Ray is always preaching about this but, I've gotta say, it's true. The more casual and unintimidating the food, the more casual and unintimidating the conversation. This is not to say that you should always play it safe, because I'm a serious believer in pushing your own boundaries and experimenting with new ingredients, but start with a familiar dish and then throw in a few curve balls of your own.
4. Shop the sales. Never did I ever think I would have half as much fun as I do flipping through the circular for my local grocery store. In fact, I'm cringing a little bit in sharing this because I fear it makes me look...well...dare I say sad? But, that aside, I do find it fun (in that challenging kind of way) to sometimes build my week-long grocery list and/or menus based around what happens to be on sale that week. If anything, it pushes you to be creative and certainly adds some variety.
5. Do as much as you can, ahead of time. Most of the gripe I hear from my friends is that they don't have enough time during the week to pull something together. And here's the thing. Where there's a will, there's a way. We know this. And we know this because it's true. If you really want to entertain and cook for friends, then nothing's going to stop you. Even if that means staying up another 10 minutes the night before so you can chop up all your veggies for the next day. Because that extra 10 minutes is going to save your little behind on game day when you can just throw everything into a hot pan as soon your guests arrive and dinner will be on the table shortly thereafter.
And with that, go on, invite your friends over, impress that boy or girl you've been eyeing, catch up with an old friend. Because I'm telling you, it'll be therapeutic and fulfilling for everyone involved.