Saturday, June 4, 2011

Older and Wiser

I hosted my first dinner party 15 years ago at the age of 25. By most standards, it was a complete and utter disaster. It was a potluck at my dad's house. I only had to provide the entree. How could I mess it up? Well, I didn't know how to grill the chicken I planned to serve. I melted the dessert someone brought. I bought the ingredients for margaritas but didn't bother to look up the recipe. Someone wanted coffee with dessert. Since I don't drink coffee, I had no clue how to make it. So, she graciously offered to show me how to make it. Then, my dad came home early. I decided I could rescue the party by taking everyone out for a drink. Turns out, it was not a disaster. The food was less than stellar but the party was fun. My party didn't need rescuing. Everyone laughed at my many blunders and had fun. No one got food poisoning. In my book, that makes it a success.

Over the last 15 years, we have hosted many dinner parties for friends and family. Some have gone smoothly. Some have been plagued with burned entrees, broken dishes, missing ingredients, childrens' temper tantrums to name a few things. The one thing every "successful" party has is fun. If the hosts are having fun, then the guests will, too. I've been to lovely parties with fabulous food and decorations but the hosts were too stressed or worried about every thing being "just right" to enjoy themselves. Guests are like dogs. They can smell stress. It's contagious. If the hosts aren't enjoying themselves, chances are no one else will. I've been too busy chatting and mingling to make sure everyone's drink is topped off. Guess what? They managed to fend for themselves and the party went on.

I still get uptight before the guests arrive. I'm hiding clutter and toys, cleaning the house and making sure I have all the food cooking on schedule. But, once the guests arrive, I focus on them and having fun. No one has starved or died of thirst at my parties. But, people usually have fun.

Tonight, we hosted our first Indiana dinner club. We carried the traditions from our dinner club back home. The rules are simple. Hosts provide the entree and select the theme. Everyone brings a dish to go along with the theme. I knew some of the guests. Some were new to me. I was a little apprehensive. It's been a long time since I've hosted a party for strangers. By the end of the evening, they weren't strangers. People mixed, mingled and nibbled on the food.

I've come a long way since that first dinner club. The food has gotten better. I've learned to relax and have fun. Guests don't care about perfect. I've learned to prepare and organize better. I've learned that having fun is the most important part of a party. The food is second. I haven't gotten better at cleaning up but I'm working on it. Sort of.

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