Are you a natural host? You know, cool as a cucumber, planning happily in advance what to serve your guests, looking at various books and adding page marks everywhere, tagging decoration magazines (or Pinterest) to get inspiration on table set ups, deciding on a theme for the event? This is my mum. She loves every bit of it.
Entertaining is much more than letting people you know into your house. It's about making them feel welcome, relaxed and most importantly, creating great experiences that will be remembered and cherished.
Food can play a big role in these situations. Making something "with love" shows your affection for your guests, demonstrating you are looking after them and that you care. This is generally where treats and desserts come in with strong power: you go out of your way to make a memorable dessert, something so special that it will become a tradition!
The thing is, if we really want to create healthier habits that are in line with our values, then it makes sense that we would also like to celebrate with things that make us feel good, confident and energetic, not sluggish, defeated or even worse, guilty. What are these things? Take a moment to think about what it means to have a good time.
For my mom, it's all about the set up and the mood she creates with music and decorations. You see, mom hates cooking - so the food part of the Christmas equation was never a big one. My memories of a good time involve staying up late, having my cousins sleepover, spending most of the following day wearing my pyjamas and playing board games. These are the bits I try to replicate year in, year out.
I was speaking with someone the other day, who said they go camping during Christmas. This is so awesome! Their kids will grow up to associate the time with sleeping outdoors, bonding with their parents, learning how to build a fire and all the cool stuff! I'd say it's pretty memorable, PLUS, I bet the parents are quite happy not having to slave off in the kitchen for two consecutive days! Win-Win.
Chances are, most people won't go camping, and there will still be some type of home gathering involving food. So here are some tips and reminders:
Have salad served as an entree
Use tomato and cucumber rounds instead of biscuits to go with cheese and pâté
Cut up carrots, celery and capsicum to go with dips
Serve salted, dry roasted nuts instead of those roasted in oil
Serve some homemade roasted chickpeas as nibbles
Offer the cheese platter AFTER the meal
Have smaller platters
Remember you are not a restaurant, people are there to have a good time with you!
I know it's not easy to change our idea of what a party should look like, or how Christmas "works"; but we need to start somewhere. Build awareness of your typical model, then start to pull it apart, question which bits are really essential and which ones can be restructured. What is it that make these events so special?
Movies can happen without popcorn or choc tops.
Work parties can happen without everyone getting drunk.
Christmas can happen without everyone rolling home.