Episode #13- The Art of intentional Hospitality- Food and activities
In episode 13, I touch on both the art of feeding your guests along with tips and tricks as well as the importance of entertaining them while they are in your home.
A party without a cake is just a meeting.Julia Childs
While Cake isn’t my favorite dessert I just love the sentiment behind this quote! My love for Julia Childs I admit started after watching, “Julie and Julia” starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.
Prior to that I really did love to cook and experiment in the kitchen. I love making a dish that my Husband can’t help but exclaim, “ Oh my gosh, yum” after his first bite.
Providing sustenance to your guests
While feeding and entertaining guests, I’ve had my fair share of cooking and food mishaps. Sometimes, no matter how hard you have tried to make that amazing gourmet recipe. And you had so much confidence, you may be left staring at something you’re wondering is even edible.
Here are some tips on serving food to your guests with minimum stress and maximum intentionality.
#1-Use a Recipe, evaluate your time and Don’t try to make something you’ve never made before
One time my Hubby and I were working in an acrobatic show very near our then home. At the end of the show we invited everyone over, and they wanted to come! We didn’t have a lot of money or time, but I didn’t want it to stop us.
Quickly I ran to the grocery store and picked some things up before everyone arrived. I decided to use our new fondue pot, which I had never used before, what could go wrong?
We had multiple guests coming, with under an hour to throw something together. Being both naive and ambitious, not realizing the amount of cheese I had in my fridge was not enough to make beer cheese fondue. I hadn’t bought any at the store because, I was sure I had enough.
We had been to fondue restaurants. I’d seen the guy do it at our table, it should be easy right? This led to me being stressed. Our cast mates arrived to our house with lumpy, burnt cheese that you couldn’t dip anything into.
While they were all very kind it’s a food fail that sticks clear in my mind. Use a recipe, and make something you know you are good at, especially considering your time and budget constraints.
#2- Find out if your guests have allergies or food preferences
A dear friend of ours used to be married to a funny little man. He always seemed to pop up with new food dislikes or allergies when we had them over for dinner. Usually it was something I had prepared, which ultimately made me feel like a bad hostess.
It has since instilled in me the habit of always letting my guests know ahead of time what I’m planning. This gives them the opportunity to let me know if there are allergies and dislikes that I need to consider before they are at my dinner table.
#3- Make enough food
I can’t take credit for this story. It comes from a friend who happened to be invited to her sister’s In laws for a Brunch. More than 10 adult guests present and the meal consisted of a very small bowl of eggs likely less than a dozen, and a few pieces of bacon and sausage.
They said everyone was getting teaspoon sized portions as to make sure everyone got at least a bite. This was quite uncomfortable and had our friends feeling like there wasn’t much consideration for anyone there.
Remember that you might eat like a bird but your guests might need more.
My Hubby’s metabolism has slowed a bit, as he is now in his 40’s, but I have Brothers who need a considerable amount of food to satisfy their hunger. I always think of the song from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”. Gaston sings about eating 5 dozen eggs so he’s roughly the size of a barge.
I’d always rather have leftovers than make people feel they aren’t getting enough.
#4- Appetizers, Drinks and Desserts
When appetizers are set out and ready as people arrive, it can help you not feel stressed. Especially if you are running behind on dinner, or if a guest is running late. keeping your guests fed helps them to feel at ease.
You can get fancy or go easy, grab a pre made veggie or fruit tray at the store. Transferring it to a nice serving dish can make it look nice a feel intentional.
Consider at least 3 different types of appetizers so you can be sure to appease every palette.
- You can do a pre mixed cocktail in a pitcher
- Have a bottle of wine and beer available for options
- If you are serving alcoholic drinks make sure you also have non alcoholic options, coffee or sparkling water, soda etc
- Never push or make anyone feel pressured one way or the other
- Dessert is a great thing you can have someone bring if they’d like to contribute.
- Even if your guests are the epitome of fitness you can still provide a healthy option.
- If you don’t know their preferences stick to something thats pretty even keeled. Not too sweet or something with options like vanilla ice cream with toppings to build your own dessert.
#5- Be present
Don’t let your food prep and clean up hamper your ultimate goal which is to make your guests feel welcome.
I’ve heard a story from my Grandmother “Crackers”. (You can listen and read about her interview in Episode 13 here )
Her and her Hubby went to Dinner as a young married couple at the neighbors house. The hostess made a lovely gourmet meal, her home was impeccably clean but she almost never sat down. Each course was quickly removed as they took their last bite. When dessert was set the hostess was vacuuming underneath their feet.
Is what you are making or trying to keep clean requiring too much focus while your guests are present? If so you may want to reconsider your intentions. (You can read more about that here)
You are a Friend, a hostess not a hired private chef.
#6- the food doesn’t have to be perfect for people to feel loved
Does the thought of making a meal for people, or a large group seem unattainable, and even scary? Are you in a season of life that doesn’t allow for you to be the hostess of your dreams? Don’t let perfectionism stop you.
I’m told from a family Friend that she learned that from my Mom. My Mom is not a cook but she is one of the best hostesses I’ve ever met or experienced. One of her dearest friends talked about when my Siblings and I were young, and she would stop by.
My Mom was never fazed by not being perfectly prepared. She always had something she could easily throw together, corn dogs in the freezer for kids, chips and salsa when a friend needed a listening ear or popsicles on a hot summer day. Her heart was in the right place and everyone who visited felt it!
Our Friends own Grandmother always had her secret recipe. She was a killer cook and baker. She said there were always situations where keeping your sanity and focusing on time spent with your guests was paramount. There is no harm in buying boxed, bagged or canned and serving it in a nice way.
I’ll keep the mystery, but let you know I have done this because of time or sanity. I’ve even had people rave about the food and ask for the recipe.
If you have kids you might initially be great at providing something that suits their little taste buds. It could feel intimidating, I’ve found over the years of hosting many different kids it doesn’t really take rocket science. Just make sure they feel like you thought of them too!
Some Ideas for Kids:(if their parents allow)
- Juice boxes
- Fruit snacks
- If they come from a health conscious family -fresh fruit or veggies will probably foot the bill
- If you are BBQing, hot dogs are a good choice
- Get a desert with them especially in mind
If they are picky eaters and don’t touch what you’ve offered, don’t sweat it. Chances are their parents are aware of their not so diverse palette. They will at least feel loved you thought of their children.
Don’t be offended, make sure their parents know you are not upset that they didn’t eat your food.
Activities and keeping your guests “entertained”.
Wether you are having your best Girlfriend over for coffee, a quiet evening alone with your Hubby or a major dinner party activities or entertaining your guest is a big part of the “Art of Intentional Hospitality”.
There is a reason it’s called “entertaining”.
Believe it or not a little thought in this area goes a long way! Here are some ideas:
- I love having a slide show of pictures playing on my TV. You can do it through many different avenues, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick etc. It’s especially fun when you include photos from past events or gatherings, with the guest who will be at your house! This can spark great conversation and bring up fun things to reminisce about.
- Taking a walk after dinner around your neighborhood. Looking at architecture and getting exercise are both great!
- Games like corn hole have been great on many occasions. It’s perfect for varying ages and can be done all together as a group. It’s also easy to find and inexpensive to buy.
Activities that are also food
- Do you have a fire pit? Roasting marshmallows is a great activity that comes along with a sweet nostalgia. Also it’s an activity and a dessert!
- Serving fondue is a fun way to get everyone involved, dessert, cheese or meats. It can start great conversation.
- A quiet wine and cheese night can be made into an activity. You can blind the bottles and let people guess what kind of wine it is. Give people note pads, they can take tasting notes.
- You can all watch a movie. If you are feeling extra creative set your menu to match the theme of the movie.
- Host a cooking night where everyone brings a part of the dish then works together to construct it.
Keeping your smallest Guests entertained
- Did you say, you don’t have a great yard? Going to a local park where kids can get their wiggles out and adults can enjoy in the fun too!
- Do you want to entertain the kids? The ones who might get bored with adult conversation? Have a selection of movies available for them. After dinner, pull out blankets and pillows and make it feel extra special and comfy.
- Having Coloring books and crayons on hand is easy and not expensive.
- Board games of course are a fun way to entertain your guests. Depending on the game you can include the adults and the kids.
Not just dinner parties
- Is there a new Friend you’d like to get to know better? Do you have a skill you can share like sewing, crocheting, or art work/crafting? Invite them over and offer to share your knowledge.
- Do you know one or several people who like a similar hobby to you? Hosting a gathering where everyone can share in that joy is a great way to make people feel special and create community.
The bottom line
When you are prepared and already have activities in mind for your guests it helps people feel wanted and welcome.
Learn to read your guests. Pay attention. If conversation is going well a game or movie might not be necessary, but a walk might be nice. This is an art form learned over time. Being prepared can help take away some of the stress of hosting.
When you have a guest that is not well known, ask them to bring a game or a movie. This might make them more comfortable and you’ll get to know them better in the process.
“The art of intentional hospitality”, stems from a sincere desire to make your guests feel wanted and comfortable! You can take all of these suggestions and tailor them to the evening and who you are entertaining.
You can whip up food or coordinate a potluck. If you are pressed for time, decant pre-made yumminess into that cute bowl you got for your wedding. The main thing is making people feel fed, loved and welcomed.
Heck, Jesus did it with 5 loaves and fishes. So take a breath. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Certainly don’t let the enemy rob you of the opportunity to open up your home and share Gods love.
Remember your guests are there for you, lean into your strengths, relax and cultivate the “Art of Intentional Hospitality”.