Some time ago, my wife Christina was the Managing Director of the Philadelphia Theater Company. In addition, we have numbers of friends who have long been supporters. So, when the Philadelphia Theater Company asked this year for a contribution to their annual Sweetheart’s Brunch Silent Auction, we thought it would be special to donate dinner for two couples with Christina and I…At Home. That was in February.
Well, company’s coming next Sunday and I need to start planning. Over the next week plus I will share how I go about planning this dinner and hosting our guests including a postscript with some photos and after-dinner thoughts about how things worked out. Tomorrow I will share my menu planning. But first…
A Conversation with Myself
The following is a conversation with myself between the me that is The Entertaining Overachiever and the me that is The Good Enough Entertainer.
The Entertaining Overachiever: Oh my God. Dinner next weekend. Our guests are world travelers, eat in sophisticated restaurants…and they bid good money for this dinner. It had better be amazing!
The Good Enough Entertainer: Whoa! Slow down partner.
The Entertaining Overachiever: What do you mean, slow down.?!! I can’t slow down. I’ve got way too much to do to get ready. I have nine days and that means there is not only so much to do but so much I can do.
The Good Enough Entertainer: Relax. You know your pattern. You always try to do too much.
The Entertaining Overachiever: Too much?! I have a reputation to uphold. I’m a chef of forty years, served millions of guests, won awards. I am how I entertain!
The Good Enough Entertainer: First, let me tell you that’s wrong. You are not how you entertain. You’re just fine and the outcome of this dinner will not change that one way or the other.
The Entertaining Overachiever: …but, they have expectations.
The Good Enough Entertainer: I don’t think it’s their expectations that you’re struggling with. I think it’s your expectations.
The Entertaining Overachiever: This is really hard. How can I change how I do this?
The Good Enough Entertainer: It’s not really so hard. In fact, it’s easier! First, you really focus way too much on the food. Home entertaining is about creating a sense of welcome and warmth.
The Entertaining Overachiever: But it’s dinner. I’m not serving welcome and warmth!
The Good Enough Entertainer: Ha, ha. I’m not suggesting you order in pizza. Of course you want this to be nice. You want it to be nice for your guests, but especially because this is something you love to do.
The Entertaining Overachiever: I know I love to do it, but it seems that every time I entertain at home it ends up feeling like work. I feel hassled when I’m doing it. And when it’s over I feel tired and resentful.
The Good Enough Entertainer: That’s because you’re not taking enough time to make a good and realistic plan, spreading your tasks over time and resources.
The Entertaining Overachiever: So, what should I do?
The Good Enough Entertainer: It’s important that you spend enough time planning. Your plan needs to be realistic.
The Entertaining Overachiever: What’s realistic?
The Good Enough Entertainer: Well, realistic means that whatever you do, you can imagine getting it done given the available time and resources, not feeling hassled, tired and resentful and your having fun doing it. When you make your plan, ask yourself if you can imagine that. If you can’t, make another plan! And remember, things always take longer than you think.
The Entertaining Overachiever: Right. I keep forgetting that this should be fun for me.
The Good Enough Entertainer: And always spread your tasks over time and resources.
The Entertaining Overachiever: I get the time thing. But what do you mean by resources?
The Good Enough Entertainer: You do not have to make everything. You can make some things and buy some things. Make a little. Buy a lot. Buy a little. Make a lot. It really doesn’t matter. Remember that welcome and warmth thing. And taking good care of yourself. You can also hire a helper. And, remember, home entertaining is a team sport and Christina is part of the team. She’s a resource.
The Entertaining Overachiever: But Christina is very busy. I hate to ask her.
The Good Enough Entertainer: She always helps. She gets the apartment ready, deals with the wine, takes care of the table. And she helps clean up.
The Entertaining Overachiever: I think I’m beginning to understand. Isn’t there something about one relaxed hour?
The Good Enough Entertainer: Yes. Every home entertainer deserves one relaxed hour before guests arrive. But that doesn’t just happen. It happens because you plan for it.
The Entertaining Overachiever: I feel better now. I think I understand the principles and I will try to apply them over the next nine days.
The Good Enough Entertainer: Why don’t you join me for a glass of wine?
The Entertaining Overachiever: Why don’t we have a vertical wine tasting of vintage cabernet blends from Napa bottled between 2005 and 2008 from organic wineries producing less than 500 cases? I’ll go get my tasting notebook.
The Good Enough Entertainer: Have I not taught you anything. Augh!
Tomorrow – Company’s Comping Part 2: The Consultation/Party Parameters and Menu Planning
At Home’s Mother’s Day Special
Look for an email from me on Monday about an At Home’s Mother’s Day Gift Special that includes a personally inscribed At Home, a Pascal Lemaitre Mother’s Day Card and At Home bookplate for you to inscribe a permanent Mother’s Day greeting in your gift.
Thank you for visiting.
Your Home Entertaining Coach