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 The Approach to Hosting a Party

Planning a party is not as fun as attending a party. I’m warning you now, by all that is good and holy, if you’re thinking about hosting a party stop now. It’s about as dangerous as fiddling around with forbidden lores.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI6-JzxV-_M

If you’re reading this it means you’re the kind of reckless person that I both love and fear.

I plan parties. It’s what I do for a living and I have a little over a decade of experience doing it. That being said, there is no single right way to plan a party. It’s not like putting a man into space, which probably has very few correct options for success. My way is not the only way. All I can do is give you advice. But I tried that earlier and yet here we are.

There are two considerations to take into account that are more important than any other factor when planning a party. More important that budget, more important that the taste preferences of the guests. More important than anything. Guest Count and space.

 Guest Count

Guest count will dictate this entire party. You can pretty much Martha Stewart up any culinary masterpiece you want if your party consists of fifteen people or less. Whatever you can dream up, seriously. If you want a ten course tasting menu for Christmas by all means do it. Want to deconstruct a Chicago style hotdog and build an entire menu around it for your child’s first birthday than live the dream.

If you have around twenty or more people now we need to change gears and start talking about an entrée and two sides with a dessert. The reason guest count is so important is because it dictates what you can get done in a reasonable amount of time. This may sound obvious but it needs to be said: The more people you have the more food you will need to have. I’m not saying that for budget reasons. I’m saying that because I want you to think about how many mixing bowls, refrigerators, temperature controlled hot drawers ect ect ect you actually have to work with. Unless you have an industrial oven in your kitchen expect to only be heating one to two dishes at once. And when those dishes are out and starting to lose temperature now you have to cycle another dish into the oven to cook. If the food is to be ready all at once you’ll have dishes with varying temperatures sitting around. If you want to run different courses than you will not be eating with your guests. You’ll be cooking. Hooray!

Let me, as an example, talk about Thanksgiving at my parents house for about twenty some people. The hot dishes consisted of Turkey, a pasta, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, garlic buttered noodles, a backup pan of stuffing, wine poached pears, and the turkey’s gravy(plus anything else I’m forgetting). Turkey occupied the oven till it was done (because of its size) and only then did other dishes get to cycle in. The stove has four burners only. Dishes were coming off too early to make way for other dishes. Things were cooling while other things were cooking. The variety in food was as diverse as the variety in temperatures.

The meal was great and everyone left full and happy but it was too ambitious. The more people you have, the simpler you need to make the menu. You can make a lot of food and fill people up, but it doesn’t need to be ten different options. You’re hosting a party, not franchising a Boston Market.

Space

Are you ready to be having this much fun at your party? I know I am.

Space. I touched on space as concerning your prep area but that’s not really the most important thing considering space as a factor. When I say space, I mean where are these people supposed to eat?

The single most deadly enemy you’ll face when considering the issue of space is this little innocent guy here:

Pretty unassuming isn’t he, with his dull little edges and clean complexion. How can he possibly harm your party? Consider what happens when your guest has to use him though. Immediately the arm’s natural instinct is to bend to its side horizontally at a 90 degree angle and start sawing back and forth. Watch the arm, it will extend sometimes up to six inches to the side while sawing. Further if what it is cutting is hard to get through like steaks or thick dry pieces of chicken. Not only do you need space to accommodate the size of a person’s frame but now you need an extra half a foot to their right or left to prevent elbowing. Otherwise people have to cut in a very ineffective and awkward way.

If you have a party of thirty people do you have around fifty-five feet of dining space for those folks? Cause that’s what you’ll need.

What else does that knife dictate? If you have food that requires a knife then you cannot expect people to stand and eat. You can’t cut food without having a steady surface to cut on. I mean, you can try. It’s your floor not mine. Buy a mop.

You may say you have bar space to for standing diners to set plates on and eat there? I’m sure you do but make sure that it’s not the same space the food is going to be displayed and served on. You also may want to make sure that this standing space is not blocking the flow of other guests moving around at the party. Standing diners become an obstacle to others at the party. Also, standing diners are likely to be elbowing people passing by because of the knife.

Making up seated dining space with snack trays? Buy that mop and consider a carpet cleaner too. Snack trays are designed to turn chairs that weren’t meant to be dining chairs into an eating place. The chair will be to low and lack a hard back if it’s a sofa. If you’re going the folding chair route know that most folding chairs are a little too high to accommodate leg space under a snack tray.

The other thing about snack trays is this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOEIRwBlfiY&feature=related

They are not a stable platform. They wobble with knife use and shake rather violently with even a casual collision from another diner. Those legs forced tightly under the tray and compacted between the supports are constantly bumping and fiddling with the locking mechanisms of those trays.

So my advice to you dear would-be host is this: do not host this party. Find a gullible sap (friend or family member) to host for you. You’ll have a lot more fun. If that option is out then please consider first how many people you are hosting at this event and what the dining space is going to be like. Nail those two things down and you might just pull off a party without a hitch. Put more thought into something other than the above; buy a mop.

But that’s my approach to hosting a party and it’s just one of many right ways to do it. Have advice, please share and to all you would be hosts and hostesses, good luck.

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