Feast without Frenzy: Put People to Work

For whatever reason, I often feel like I have to do everything myself when guests gather—plan, cook, serve, clean (alright, I admit, Christopher does that). But the truth is, involving others in the meal makes them feel  more welcome, more at home. Here are five strategies for putting people to work during the holidays in a way that will bring cheer to all.


  • Let guests get in on the planning. Throw out a theme (our New Year’s meal this year will be entirely white) or a challenge (Iron Chef anyone?) and let guests develop a dish to bring.
  • Put idle hands to work. There are two well-proven truths about cooking for company–1) everyone congregates in the kitchen and 2) many hands make light work. Take a cue and put those hands to work on labor-intensive dishes like rolling or stuffing pasta.
  • Give assignments. Some of my most successful dinner parties have included a “to-do” list for each of the guests. It frees me up from the “what’s next?” bombardment and let’s people contribute to dinner prep at their own pace.
  • Create a make-your-own menu. Some meals just lend themselves to interaction. Homemade pizzas, where guests shape or top their own, and dishes that require individual assembly like tacos or lettuce wraps are great choices.
  • Let others pitch in on clean up. Don’t underestimate the bonding power of doing dishes together . . .

This week, as you plan your New Year’s gathering, consider putting people to work.


4 Replies to “Feast without Frenzy: Put People to Work”

  1. This looks so tasty…and it doesn’t require a pasta machine, which is a big bonus! I’d be tempted to add some shrimp to the dish. And I’ll bet these noodles would be great for an Asian pan-fried noodle kinda dish, too!

  2. I like the shrimp idea! I saw a spaetzle recipe yesterday and it made me think of these–they’d be great with braised meats. But I love the tie you both make to the Asian side of things. I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time I make the Braised and Glazed Five-Spice Short Ribs!

  3. By the way, I have to admit liking that that photo collage includes both my hands and my mom’s hands . . . it felt really cool to be sitting around the table with my family rolling noodles like that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *