We all have our favorite pair of jeans; the ones that fit just right, worn in a way that matches the story of their use. When our best friend calls us up for cocktails, we slip them on. When our date wants to watch a movie, we shuffle through our drawers, squeeze into something that shows we are trying too hard, and then settle on that same old, perfect pair of jeans. No matter the season, our jeans are our reliable standby.
For the past month, my wife and I have consistently entertained two out of five weeknights, as well as both weekend evenings. In case the calculation sounds absurd, I assure you that, yes, that is sixteen occasions. Sixteen meals, thirty-two times scrubbing the loo, one hundred twenty-eight tealight candles for our Glassybaby’s and an incalculable amount of wine. Needless to say, I reached for my favorite pairs of jeans steadily, and always felt great.
Now that the month has come and gone, I realize that my jeans were not the only magic number I pulled out. To save myself from otherwise sure insanity, I drew from my own gaggle of go-to’s, ensuring everything went smoothly. Should you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I kindly suggest the must-haves below to accompany your fabulous jeans.
White T-Shirts: Your jeans never looked better than when matched with a clean white T. I like to spruce mine up with a pair of drop pearl earrings, and tend to set a scarf or wrap nearby to reach for when dusk arrives. When guests ring our doorbell, I am usually still donning a simple floral or striped apron, which immediately makes them feel at home. I untie the apron strings when I sit down to the meal, revealing a clean, crisp look that reminds me my time as chef is complete. It is time for the company of friends.
A Few Easy Recipes: Without a handful of straightforward meals, I would be frantic preparing dinner for two or twenty-five. (Yes, we hosted both, and everything in between.) That is why I relied on three or four favorites, whose derivations could suit any guest’s dietary needs or preferences. Make note of the meals you try, like, and find to be simple and satisfactory; these will become your arsenal from which to draw when your calendar is full. A pasta dish is handy, and can easily be prepared with our without seafood to accommodate the vegetarians at your table. I also found myself reaching for gluten-free pasta on a couple occasions, making those with allergies feel welcome. As the guest count increased, I leaned toward more family-style recipes, supplying the ingredients for dress-your-own fajita or top-your-own pizza. This allows friends to feel more involved in the preparations, and gives them the freedom to satisfy their own tastes. A platter of nibbles is a must when guests arrive, as is a great gelato topped with fresh fruit or creamy dulce-de-leche to conclude the meal.
Water and Wine: Do not let your guests get thirsty; it makes them feel unwelcome. Place a pitcher of water on the table, and refill as needed. Also, allow wine to breathe by opening a bottle before guests arrive. You serve this bottle first, and if friends come bearing a bottle, you open theirs next. Unless wine is given as a gift, wrapped and accompanied by a card (as may be customary at a birthday celebration or the like), your friends are bringing wine because they want to contribute to the meal. And they want to drink it. So you should serve it.
A Conclusive Sentence: Although most people know how to not overstay their welcome, there will be the occasional evening when conversation continues later than you want. I have heard that the best way to curtail this possibility is to, when the clock strikes bedtime, excuse yourself, and return in your pajamas. I have yet to try it, but have relied on a bevy of statements and actions that signals the guest to go. Usually getting up to do the dishes does the trick, as does wiping counters. When that fails, I mention an early morning meeting that my wife or I must attend, or a previous night’s fitful sleep. Even if I am only meeting my wife for coffee in the morning, and did sleep decently the night before, I feel unashamed in offering these tidbits. Assuming I have done my job right as host, and provided my guests with both a great meal and evening in our home, I give myself enough grace to turn back toward honoring my own space and my own time. This ensures I can be ready to happily welcome the next friends that arrive.
Amy Andrews is Positively Smitten’s resident woman of worldly wisdom and will be sharing her advice through a weekly series published every Saturday.