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.