My parents came to visit last weekend. We had a lovely time, checking out the Berkshire Museum (the M.C. Escher exhibit is highly recommended) and catching up. I really wanted them to meet a couple of our friends from church, so I gave our friends a call to see when we could all meet up. Somehow in the course of that brief conversation, I committed myself to hosting the whole crew for dinner: my parents, Brian and I, our friends from church and their 3 children. 9 people.
Once the initial shock wore off, I came up with a plan to serve all 9 of us without making myself miserable in the process.
I gave choices. I decided almost immediately that a make your own taco bar was the right way to go for our evening. Allowing our guests to make their own tacos meant I didn’t have to worry too much about what people did and didn’t eat. I could provided vegetarian and non-vegetarian options and people could top their tacos as they wished. I provided beef, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream and onions.
I delegated. When my friend Doris asked what she could bring for dinner, I wasn’t too proud to accept. Silly as it may sound, I asked her to make the rice. I hate making rice. I’ve heard that a rice maker would be the solution to this problem, but I refuse to buy another appliance. Anyway, her bringing the rice eliminated a lot of stress in my life.
I compromised a little. In an ideal world, I’d make my own taco seasoning, serve humanely raised organic beef and use real dishes. With 2 days to plan this meal and no interest in spending my parents visit in the kitchen or all of my paycheck on meat, I adjusted accordingly. I bought 2 packages of McCormick low sodium taco seasoning (which I grew up on), normal supermarket ground beef and paper plates. In my defense, I only have enough dishes for 8, so the plates were sort of a necessity.
I prepped some stuff the night before. Friday night I cooked and seasoned the beef. Saturday morning I shredded the cheese and chopped the tomatoes. Nothing else for the meal was difficult to prepare, so the hour before the fun started wasn’t stressful.
I made my guests do the work. The make your own taco bar meant that the only tacos I had to assemble were my own. I didn’t pour drinks either: we put all the beverage options out on the counter and let everyone fend for themselves. People are smart, they can manage.
We didn’t eat at the table. Our dining room table seats 6, if we’re lucky. So we set up some extra chairs in the living room, plus our plastic folding tables, and ate there. The kids sat at the coffee table, which is where Brian and I usually eat anyway, so it seemed totally normal.
I made plenty of food. I was a little worried that I’d run of out food. How much do a 7, 9 and 13 year old eat? I made 2 pounds of beef, 2 cans of black beans and heated 26 tortillas. At the end of the night, we had 1 serving of assorted fillings and 3 hard shell tortillas left. Perfect. The taco bar also allowed people to freely get more food when they wanted to.
I didn’t worry about the little things. So what if my serving dishes didn’t match? The point of having everyone over was to socialize, not to show off my Fiesta collection. I focused on that goal and, as a result, so did everyone else.
I had such a good time and felt so accomplished when the night was over. I can’t wait to do it again. (Thanks again to Brian for doing the dishes!)