To entertain or not to entertain?

Flowers and candles are wonderful, but friends and family are better. Just remember, so long as you truly put your heart into entertaining, your efforts will always be successful.

Flowers and candles are wonderful, but friends and family are better. Just remember, so long as you truly put your heart into entertaining, your efforts will always be successful.

by Kristin Cicciarelli — 

Have you ever planned a simple gathering for friends and family and watched it quickly spiral out of control? Your intentions are good: something simple — just hamburgers and potato salad. Then you remember that Aunt Jenny is a vegetarian and cousin Laurie is allergic to mayonnaise, so you add veggie patties and fruit to the menu.

You are not worried about decorations — until, of course, you recall that your parents’ anniversary is just three days after your “casual” get-together, so you had better have cake and a fun theme in their honor. And since it is now “their” party, you should include their bridge partners who have heat allergies and ill not be able to attend an outdoor event. Suddenly, your “casual” get-together has gone from a backyard barbecue on paper plates to an expensive catered affair for 60 people.

Add “clean entire house” to your to-do list and you are suddenly feeling completely overwhelmed. In fact, you are seriously considering chucking the whole idea. Before you swear off company forever, though, perhaps it is time to reconsider the true meaning of entertaining.

In an era of indulgence, where parents can spend thousands on a full-blown backyard circus birthday party for a group of 2-year olds, it is awfully tempting to play Keep Up. After all, what would people think if you served cold pasta and store-bought cookies to the same toddlers who enjoyed a spa day at the Ritz last week? Would they be traumatized if you set out sandwich fixings and let them make their own messy lunch?

As talented as she is, Martha Stewart has not exactly eased entertaining anxiety. During our mothers’ generation, cake mix from a box was perfectly acceptable. Invitations were by phone or word of mouth, not bought at posh stationery stores or made using sophisticated software packages. Moms did not dash frantically around the house with a label maker, making sure that even canned goods were labeled.

Surely, if we looked at photos of our own childhood get-togethers, most of us would not spot elaborate buffets, nor presents wrapped with handmade paper. We would, however, likely see children with huge, toothy grins having the time of their lives — yes, even without a professional clown.

Martha Stewart is an amazing businesswoman who has brought entertaining with style to the masses, and perhaps that is a good thing. However, she has also intimidated the heck out of a lot of would-be hosts who now give pause to entertaining spontaneously. Her ideas are creative, and her tables spectacular. But what seems to be missing from her entertaining style is the love — the heart, if you will.

Your entertaining style should be as unique as you are; but what really distinguishes one host from the next is the love each puts into it. Does your holiday buffet say, “Look how fabulous I am!” or “Gosh, I am so glad you are here!?” Will your friends be more disappointed if you serve them pizza, or if they never get to see you?

Flowers and candles are wonderful, but friends and family are better. Just remember, so long as you truly put your heart into entertaining, your efforts will always be successful.

 

Kristin Cicciarelli, M.A., is a freelance writer in Scottsdale, Ariz. She attended the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago culinary school, is certified in Nutrition for the Foodservice Manager and has worked in the health food industry. kcicciarelli@cox.net.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 5, October/November 2005.

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