Having people over to my house for a meal is not a gift I come by naturally. Frankly, it has caused lots of mini-anxiety attacks just thinking about doing it. My husband is an extrovert and I am the introvert so he is the one who always wants to invite people over for a meal. Despite the fact that I’m an introvert, there have actually been many birthday parties, Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas dinners and social parties at our house. I have had to break my own barriers to attempt to grow personally in this area. I know that everything always works out just fine, but I am always hesitant to entertain initially.
So here is the main point of the blog. Having people over to enjoy your home IS very important. There is nothing more special than being invited to someone’s home. It’s personal. It’s private and “in your space” but that is why is becomes more memorable and meaningful. People just don’t do it much anymore. Our lives are filled with so many activities that we feel we do not have time. I grew up in a rural setting where there were little to no restaurants to eat at. We ate at home or at someone’s house all the time. Yes, it takes planning ahead, but it can be done. The feeling of sitting on a couch, drinking an ice tea and sharing laughs and friendship just becomes special.
My lame excuse for not inviting people over is NOT that my house isn’t clean or looking nice. Let’s face it head on – – I’m pretty much a neat freak and my house is mostly tidy at all times. I love my home and feel great about how it looks. The problem is usually – – I don’t think I can cook and I’m afraid that the food won’t be edible. For many years, I stopped having people over because to me it is mentally draining trying to come up with a safe menu that won’t flop and leave my guests hungry or disappointed. Lame excuse, I know.
I also struggle with what type of food to make that everyone will eat. After all, it is so much easier (and sometimes even cheaper) to go out to a restaurant and everyone can pick what they want. I also feel the pressure of some of my excellent family and friends that make it seem so effortless to whip up a delicious five course meal with things they just happen to have in the fridge that day. How do they do that!?? It takes me a week to decide what to make, go to the grocery store and to prepare the meal!
A good place to start is with entertaining your immediate and extended family – but in small numbers! Your family should be the most forgiving if something goes bad with the meal. It may even bring laughs to some future family meals. I’ve undercooked the crescent rolls (yes from a tube) and dumped them in the wastebasket because I burnt the outside but the inside was doughy. No bread for that meal! Lesson learned. Test out all your new recipes on immediate family. If it doesn’t turn out, just apologize and try again next time. At least you’re trying, right? What’s the worst that could happen? You order some pizza delivered to the house?
There are many other options for entertaining guests. For one – go to COSTCO or some other supplier that makes premade meals. The pressure is off! You don’t have to make something from scratch. There are places that actually make pre-ready meals that you can just pop in the oven and bake as an entree’. I also discovered that a simple green salad (even it’s out of a bag) with some extra added vegetables such as a fresh tomato can serve as your “greens” for the dinner. Now how much thinking do you have to do to open up a bag of spinach?! Put out a couple different dressings and BAM!! you’re done.
So how about picking up something from your favorite restaurant or caterer? You don’t even have to cook. Of course, this would be difficult if you live far from a larger town. It works though if you have a favorite Italian restaurant in town that you can buy a take-home lasagna from. Another idea is ask your Suzie-homemaker friend who caters if she would make something ahead of time for you that you can purchase from her. Hey, if you know someone who is a great cook, why not put her to work and pay her for her talent? Works for me!
Another more relaxed option (which I have used many times for much larger parties) is just ask each family to bring one item I call “fingerfood.” It can be as simple as bringing a veggie tray. Each party ends up being interesting as the guests arrive with their favorite appetizer, dish or dessert. I don’t even ask what they are bringing which could be a bit risky, but for those type of parties it’s more about being together than having a balanced meal. I make sure I have a “main course” type item such as a baked ziti or a meat platter with buns or something that would suffice if everyone decided to bring brownies. Luckily, that has never happened and there is always way too much food left over. It’s actually quite fun to see what people show up with. Potluck is always a great experience!
I do think it is extremely important to establish and grow relationships and there is no better place to do that than in your own home. Therefore, I am going to stop worrying about all the “details” and just keep trying. I hope I’ve inspired someone to give it a try and start having people over. It is really not as scary as you think.