I sat down in my steaming hot kitchen, put my head in my hands and cried.
My face was flaming, there was ‘stuff’ on every work surface, recipe books were smeared with flour, the oven was working away, dishes were piled up, dirty pans that won’t go in the dish washer waited, and I was in despair.
We were giving a ‘dinner party’ for six guests (I know, not exactly a crowd) and I’d been running round in circles since early morning. I thought I’d been looking forward to it. I’d written my lists, done the shopping, even laid the table. But the fact remained – I was in tears.
Apparently I’m not alone. A recent press survey reported that many of us find the whole dinner party thing more stressful than seeing the bank manager or commuting to work!
So what’s the problem?
Here’s my Positive Spin.
- I don’t like being ‘judged’.
There are so many cookery shows on TV and it looks so easy! They’re run by real chefs, all with years of training and experience, owning successful restaurants. Of course their meals are amazing. That’s what their diners expect! Of course I can’t match their expertise. But somehow, when I have friends around for dinner, because I’m not a natural cook, I feel judged.
- I don’t want to ‘fail’.
I feel embarrassed if my roast potatoes aren’t perfect, my sauce has lumps (surely not!) or the steaks are over/undercooked. I worry that my menu won’t live up to expectations.
- I feel out of my depth.
At the last dinner party I went to there were three desserts. I just can’t compete! What will they say if I only produce one! I don’t know how to make filo pastry by hand, unlike my talented friend. I’ve not mastered the art of home-made ice cream or perfect cheesecake.
And so it goes on.
So! What can I do about it?
- I need to get ‘real’.
Sharing a meal is a way to get together and enjoy one another’s company. If cooking for a dinner party puts me out of my depth then I need to be very brave and say, ‘ We’d love to see you for dinner. I’m not too confident about cooking so we’d like to take you out instead.’
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, there are plenty of great pubs in the UK that serve moderately priced meals and even more choices in the US.
- I can cheat!
There’s an amazing array of food out there, ready cooked. Indian food is especially plentiful and not expensive. I’ve found fantastic savoury pies, casseroles and pasta dishes on sale in some butchers’ shops, along with fruit pies, crumbles and mousse. Sometimes I buy the main course but make the dessert. Or I make a really easy but tasty and interesting starter.
I always tell my friends that I cheated and they don’t turn a hair. At least, not so far as I can tell. It’s their company that’s the most important part of the evening.
- I must live in the real world.
Everyone has skills. Everyone. Not everyone is an expert cook, home decorator, dress-maker…. whatever. It’s time to stop stressing about it and simply confess that I don’t enjoy trying to cook restaurant style food for guests. It’s silly to pretend otherwise.
There! That feels better…
How about you?
Is there anything you need to confess? Go on, you know you want to…
You’ll feel so much better if you do!
Header image by cursedthing, post pic by lisaclarke, on Flickr.
- Bish, bash, bosh: Putting Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals to the test (guardian.co.uk)
- De-Stuff Your Thanksgiving Dinner (greenphonebooth.com)