I always enjoy hosting a small group of friends and/or family for an outdoor activity. Combine that with food and it’s simply programmed into my DNA. Having grown up in a culture where the worst societal embarrassment consists of not having enough food on the table, I’ve been trained since the age of 14 on how to properly feed the masses that would frequent my house. Russian-style parties are a rather involved to-do with days of planning and preparation. I have taken the best of that experience and combined it with a modern approach on how to host a great food party so that you yourself can also enjoy it instead of being stuck in the kitchen, cooking, all day.
I’d like to offer up some tips to make your outdoor food activities less stressful, but still elaborate and tasty.
First and foremost,
Take some time a few days before to sit down and decide on your recipes, make some shopping lists, and think about what you need to do overall. Wash your tablecloth? Clean the grill? All these small tasks add up and can take up a lot of time on the day of your event. You want to minimize assorted work like that on the day that you have to set the table, cook, and host. Having to-do and shopping lists helps tremendously because you then don’t have to occupy your head trying to remember all these things. Also make sure that you get all the supplies you need ahead of time along with your ingredients. Not having to run out and buy things last minute will greatly alleviate your stress.
Type A personality here that thinks she can do it all herself – and I can, but what’s the fun in that? It’s so much more rewarding and engaging, not to mention stress-relieving and budget-saving when other people pitch in and contribute. Ask your friends to bring odds and ends. A side salad, drink mixers, ice…With everyone contributing on a small level, you get everything you need accomplished. And don’t be afraid to ask for help (from your friends and/or family of course, not strangers) Have someone set the table while you’re doing last minute prep work. Got kids in the crowd? If they’re old enough to hold a knife, have them help as well! Kids love playing in the kitchen so it’s a good activity for them and more help for you!
Delegate yourself at least one official sous-chef so that you can have a dependable second set of hands at your calling, especially when you’re grilling. There’s always someone in a group of friends who is happy to help.
invite the correct combination of people
Especially if it’s a mid-size group of about 10-15 people. You want people to have things to talk about and get along. Don’t invite two completely different groups of friends with nothing in common – they’ll be sitting at opposite ends of the room/patio/etc. Make sure you have a good amount of very social and friendly people so that they can get the conversations started and make the less social people feel more comfortable.
have some activities planned
Depending on what you have available and your environment, have some activities planned ahead of time so that you can offer different options if your party doesn’t kick off by itself. Usually people find stuff to do on their own, but in case you need a casual group activity to get things started and make everyone feel comfortable, have a few things in mind. Some board games, maybe a sport or two. I personally like to have a bonfire because I have a fire pit outside and make s’mores. Who doesn’t love s’mores? You should see a crowd of 20 somethings trying to make s’mores. The excitement level is above any 5 year old’s.
have everyone help themselves
Set everything on one or two tables and let people know to go ahead and grab everything they need. That way, you won’t have to go crazy having to get things for 15 different people and everyone will know where everything is. There’s no shame in that!
make sure to relax and have fun
With everything taken care of, make sure you take the time to sit down, eat your own food, and enjoy the group activities. Leave the cleaning up until morning, dirty dishes aren’t going anywhere.