You don’t have to be far along on your real food journey to open up your kitchen to others.
Love people, and let them in.
Serve them food (however simple) that will nourish their bodies. Eat at a collapsible card table if that’s what you have, or on a picnic blanket on the floor.
Show them that you’re interested in them–that you want to hear their stories and linger over dessert.
Food and fellowship is a complex pairing, but a simple gathering discovers it as much as the most lavish dinner party.
So start simple. Do what you can in the space you have, with the skills you have. Start with these practical ways to extend hospitality–and you’ll realise that it’s not as intimidating as it seems!
1. Know your guest
Begin your plans by considering whom you’d like to invite over. Once you know who’s coming, you can plan the occasion, menu and atmosphere based on their personality and what they’d like. Having a specific person or family in mind cuts the indecision over what you’ll eat or even what time of day you’ll get together.
Does the family have young children? Make it an early supper and serve a “real food” version of a classic, like mac & cheese or homemade pizza.
Having a large family over? Serve soup or chili and make more than you think they’ll eat!
Inviting elderly friends? Older people often start their day earlier, so you could do a weekend breakfast or brunch!
Hanging out with foodie friends? Now’s your opportunity to try something fancy without feeling pretentious. I had a wine and cheese party for my quarter-century birthday which was well received. (:
Check out these company menus for any occasion for more ideas!
2. Follow the “Rule of 3”
Never heard of the Rule of 3? That’s because I just made it up. But it’s what we do to keep things simple and to keep us from getting too stressed out in our food preparations. Make just 3 dishes for your meal:
- A simple, plenty-for-all main dish
- A filling side
- A light, secondary side OR appetizer OR dessert
Main dishes might include a big pot of soup, a whole roast chicken (see the chicken ideas at the end of this post), or a couple of topping-loaded pizzas made in 9×13 pans. Filling side dishes might be bread, homemade french fries, rice, roasted squash, or a hefty salad. The secondary side dish can be something as easy as sliced fruit and cheese. For easy appetizers, try a make-ahead dip like hummus or refried beans. Dessert doesn’t have to be hard, either. Want to know the easiest dessert on my site? Click here!
The Rule of 3 goes for drinks, too. Offering 3 beverages gives people options without overwhelming them. Offer water, plus any combination of hot tea, iced tea, milk, wine, kombucha, etc. depending on the group and the time of day.
Need resources for simple recipes? Check out my cookbook, Real Food for the Real Homemaker My coauthors and I carefully planned it to include recipes with as few steps as possible, and with familiar ingredients that you could find in the regular grocery store. Browse the table of contents to see what we included. You can get other recipes in my site’s recipe index.
3. Go the extra mile
In my 25 years of living, I’ve discovered that the extra mile is never as long as the miles that came before it. You’ve already taken the steps to have people into your home and plan a menu–a few finishing touches make your guest feel special and make you feel like a rockstar hostess(: Here are some ideas for icing on the cake:
A candle. One is all you need for a nice, unobtrusive touch.
Space for their effects. Extra hangers in the coat closet or a bed ready to receive jackets and bags. A place to take off their shoes.
Entertainment. Hiring a juggler is always a hit, but you could also just provide an interesting coffee table book or magazine or a basket of storybooks for the children. It’s nice to have something on hand in case you need to abandon your guests for a minute to pull something from the oven (or if you’re like me, go brush your hair!).