I don’t prepare appetizers.
I serve directly from the kitchen appliance formerly known as a stove (which at some point when I wasn’t paying attention became a “cooktop”).
I set only the utensils we need, rather than a fork, spoon and knife for every meal.
My parents and grandparents did raise me properly. I do know the correct way to set a table and host a party. I simply choose simplicity at this stage in my life.
This didn’t happen overnight. In fact, I didn’t even recognize what many would consider my sub-par hosting habits until my family and I were at my folks’ house one evening. As usual, they had candles burning, a beautiful spread of hors d’oeuvres and offered drinks as soon as our coats were hanging neatly in their front closet.
“Hmmmm,” I thought.
“When was the last time I served appetizers?”
“Used a tablecloth? (Do I even know where one is if I wanted to use it?)”
“Offered more than wine or beer?”
I am a lackadaisical host. The realization took me by surprise. I thought about it for a few weeks, deciding how much it bothered me. Turns out, it actually doesn’t trouble me much.
I will inject here that my dear spouse would disagree with this assessment. But he’s a guy. He needles me when I clear the kids’ homework assignments and half-constructed Lego projects from our island before guests arrive. He doesn’t see the point when they’ll end up back on the island a few hours later.
But I have my standards, low as they may be. 😉
Sure, I’m justifying my deficiencies, but I think serving from the pans I cooked in makes sense these days. In my grandparents’ time, nearly all kitchens were separated from the rest of the house. Setting hot pans on the dining table didn’t make sense and neither did shuffling everyone through a tiny kitchen to fill their plates. Leaving the pots and pans in the kitchen and bringing serving dishes to the dining room minimized clutter.
With today’s open floor plans, people congregate in the kitchen, which often is visible from most of the main floor. Piling empty pots and pans in the sink or on the counter looks messy. Plus, leaving food in the cooking vessels keeps everything warm.
When I wrote above that I don’t do appetizers, that’s not precisely true. Personally, I love them and I will make them for an afternoon get together, for instance. But I almost never serve starters when I’m hosting dinner. If everyone sits around munching for an hour or two, they won’t be hungry for the main event, right? Right?
I love to cook and to entertain, but especially since having children, I don’t enjoy the cleanup or having a fridge overflowing with leftovers. I’d rather focus on cooking or baking a couple of decent dishes, buying a couple more and giving the counters a good wipe down before the doorbell rings.
Perhaps my gradual shift toward ultra-casual is merely a season. Maybe it’s because I’m the sole female in a house full of testosterone. It’s possible, I suppose, that the pendulum will swing back as our boys grow older. Maybe then, I’ll remember to serve ice water to everyone rather than only to those who ask.
But for now, if you accept a dinner invitation at our house, expect a simple occasion. And if I forget to refill your wine glass, please forgive me and pour yourself some more. This host is simply too busy enjoying your company.