After the Big Brunch Strategy post a couple of weeks ago, a few asked for more of that. This week, however, I’ve decided to tell the one about the time it didn’t go so well.
My husband and I had just built a lovely new home in upper Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and it was time to invite some friends over to see our creation. David and I decided to have a buffet dinner for forty friends.
It was the holidays, so Maggy and her husband Andy were there as was Sharon. My parents, who had been with us a week, had just left the day before, and as they were leaving, my husband’s brother and his family arrived for an overnight. A familiar bumptious holiday scene.
Still, I’m thinking as I chop apples and onions for my Shortcut Choucroute the morning of the party, “This can’t be that hard. I’m making a one-dish and a couple of nibbles and desserts. Besides me there’s David and our two able daughters, Maggy and Sharon, along with son-in-law Andy to pull off this party.”
It was a long day, but by 6:00, the food was ready to go, and considering houseguests past, present, and future, our home looked pretty good. We all raced to get ready. I was the first to emerge, removing hot rollers as the first wave started to arrive.
And then it began. As soon as our friends walked in, some wanted a house tour tout de suite. Those who had brought clever house gifts wanted us to open them right away. Everyone had a coat and in the rush we had forgotten to designate a spot. Thankfully Andy stepped in.
Since it was cold, I blew off icing down the drinks and simply set them outside. A fine idea except it seems I was the only one who knew of their whereabouts. At a small party everyone helps themselves to the nibbles. At a large party, however, even the sexiest platter can’t entice guests to the table. They needed passing, so when I wasn’t bringing in wine, I was walking around selling hors d’oeuvres.
Because we hadn’t seen some of our friends for a while there was lots of catching up. And since not all of our friends knew one another, someone had to get them connected. It was easy (and fun) for all of us to get engrossed in conversation. But somehow I was the only one that night who felt the pull of the crowd and saw the state of the bar, the neglected hors d’oeuvres, the un-sliced bread, the unlit chafing dishes, the uncut desserts. I felt like Charlie Sheen in “Platoon.” Here comes the enemy, armed with a map of our trenches, and all I can do is brace for the overwhelmingly relentless attack.
I did survive, but I knew the moment the party began I could have avoided a lot of suffering if I had just remembered the pre-party huddle. I should have given Andy coat duty, assigned Sharon to hors d’oeuvres, put David on the bar, and got Maggy to handle dessert. Had I just enlisted a couple of friends to help me get the dinner out (they would so happily have said yes) I would have been far less stressed.
So this is the story that led to my final exhortation in Big Brunch strategy to hire professional help and assign friends or family very specific roles (and threaten hell if they fail to perform!). It was the voice of experience from a former caterer, prolific cookbook author, and frequent dinner host who tells others not to be a hero but frequently forgets her own advice.