Fear of Entertaining....and moving past it
|My Vietnamese Persimmons
I have often wondered why no one has written a book with this thought in mind. We can buy books on entertaining but has anyone written about how to conquer the fear of doing it?
Looking for excuses...
These days, I blame social media and a case of too many gorgeous tables and food images. Maybe I am showing my age and missing those early 90's "Martha" days. Entertaining seemed simpler when there was just one entertaining guru. You looked at an image and thought, I can do that and tried. Now there are so many choices it's easier to save it in a Pinterest file and think about it another day.
First issue, 1990
It's not my imagination...
For years my family looked at me with dismay when I mentioned inviting people over for dinner. It's not so much that I would embarrass them with my cooking skills (although I believe that to be true even though they say it is not ) but its the preamble leading up to the big event that worried them. It was watching my Virgo perfectionism blow up to tsunami proportions, taking everything and everyone with it in its wake...leaving them feeling exhausted before the front door opened to guests.
Ok, I admit, tensions in the past have risen, and there may have been a few evil glares (by me) directed towards family members who might not have met my demands. And yes, I botched up a few meals along the way. In the end, I gave up, conceded and agreed, entertaining and me were not to be.
Hooray for 60!
Then I turned 60, accepted my empty nester status, embraced my "inner wisdom" and made a plan. I was going to figure this out, for if not now, when?
I started by making a declaration on this blog to host a Tahilla Gathering, one where women could come together to reflect on their personal collage of life, enjoy our fresh air and mountain views and more importantly join me for a meal or two or three around our table at Tahilla Farm. I like a challenge, especially in my 60's. ;)
The Cookbook Queen...
I am the queen of cookbooks which many of us afflicted by FOE admit to being. I love buying cookbooks, reading them and organizing them on my cookbook shelf. They look so pretty and make me feel like the world is my cooking oyster. Ask me how many I actually cook from and you would get a few ummms and ahhhs.
|Image: Melissa Clark
My cooking guru...
One cookbook, Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark was a kind of revelation to me. Melissa wears many cooking hats and most notably as a food writer for The New York Times. Her cookbook was gifted to me by sister-in-law, one of the best gifts I could have received. I cooked one recipe, then another and another, tried them out on my family and they were all delicious which amazed my family to no end. I love the flavors Melissa pulls together in her recipes. They are all the ones I have been tasting over the past 20 years of expat life, from Australia; New Zealand; England; Vietnam and Hong Kong...ones that my family have become accustomed to. They are our comfort food.
With Melissa Clark's cookbook in hand, I branched out last summer and invited a few friends for dinner. I then decided to see what a Tahilla Gathering would truly feel like and hosted a first in a Series of Conversations for a few women friends and their friends. I cooked, they cooked, we set all our plates on the table, shared a meal, talked and laughed. Friendship and laughter prevailed and that is all I could ask for. Sixty and the idea of Tahilla Gatherings never felt better!
A few of our family favorite 'Dinner" cookbook recipes:
Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage, Jalapeno, and Lime Slaw
Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt
Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup (just made this, delish!)
Simplest Green Salad
Roasted Winter Vegetables with Herbed Buttermilk Dressing
Pizza with Broccoli Rabe, Ricotta and Olives
Shredded Tofu with Spicy Ground Chicken and Edamame
Thai Lettuce Wraps
Smoky Paprika Chicken with Crispy Chickpeas, Roasted Lemon and Baby Kale
Chorizo Pork Burgers
Intention and gratitude...and friendships, new and old
I think approaching entertaining with intention and gratitude made a big difference. My intention was to cook and enjoy the company of others and be grateful for the time they spent in our home.
For the past few years I have been living in and out of our New Hampshire home between Vietnam, Hong Kong and Australia. No one knew if I was coming or going (nor did I at times) and it made it hard to establish friendships. Entertaining has allowed me to reach out and make meaningful connections, ones that I am grateful for. Coffee, tea, lunch, dinner or just a sundowner...for me, having guests in our home is the greatest gift of all.
A few things I learned along the way....
I like to be organized but I also have a tendency towards procrastination. I can be a master at it and it is often the cause of my own undoing. Rather than wait until the last minute to organize an event as I typically would do, I decided to give myself plenty of breathing space and plan at least two weeks in advance.
I like 'family style' dining. Family style is easy, people can help themselves, take what best suits their dietary needs and seconds are always available. I find people are more relaxed eating this way and I know I am.
We hired a caterer for the recent three day Tahilla Gatherings retreat at our home and it worked brilliantly. There were too many meals for me to handle on my own for 11 people and a caterer just made a saner and happier me. I know our guests appreciated it too! I wrote about it here.
I discovered that it is all in the flow. In the past I was still cooking away when guests arrived which resulted in mayhem. I learned to pick recipes that allow me to prepare in advance and I stick to my "to do" list and I do love my lists...
I learned the hard way and now try recipes before an event, luckily for me, with Melissa's recipes, they work every time. On one occasion I was eager to learn how to make a tomato tart for a lovely blogging friend who I was meeting for the first time. A few days before our lunch, I made three, tested and picked my favorite from The Great Dixter Cookbook by Aaron Bertelson. It was me, a lot of tomatoes, a few tart pans, music and time to make a mess...just the way I like to cook.
Tomato Tart Recipe here
The Great Dixter Cookbook by Aaron Bertelson
TIME and PATIENCE are the operative words for me. I tend to try and squeeze as much as I can out of every second of the day and with cooking you really can't do that. Being present, understanding the ins and outs of a recipe and being patient is what is all about.
|All hands around our kitchen island
With family and close friends, I love all hands around the kitchen island. We have a 12' island, allowing for plenty of people to gather around. Everyone has a role ...we share in the prep, the conversation, the cooking and the tasting. I think food as a partnership is a wonderful experience and plan to do more of it in the days ahead, at home and with a Tahilla Gathering.
I love the feeling of a glowing room surrounded by candles, flowers and my favorite dinner playlists. Lately I have been playing the music of Stephane Grappelli... it's an instant mood lifter for me and I love the spirit his music brings to entertaining.
A FEW NOTES
When looking for entertaining inspiration I head to
I also find great ideas on Instagram and save them for future use.
I enjoy the book Entertains by Charlotte Moss.
in the USA and Gourmet Traveller from Australia.
If you enjoy cooking podcasts, I highly recommend
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Any entertaining or cooking tips for me?
Do you like to entertain?
Are you a fellow FOE person?
Been there done that?
Have a thought or two?
Write to me!
If you would like to learn more about Tahilla Gatherings,
drop me a line, I will add you to the mailing list.
Lots coming up on that front!
As always, I am SO very GRATEFUL
that you stopped by!