These could be your disembodied, gesticulating hands over an elaborately cooked and labelled feast!
Here are things I love:
- Hosting parties;
- Cooking elaborate meals that would sate a Roman emperor;
- Planning in excruciating detail, preferably with spreadsheets.
Recently, I hosted a Friendsgiving dinner for 15-20 people. I wanted to share some recommended practices and a sample menu, to aid in your party planning.
Pick a day when people are unlikely to be traveling. I held my Friendsgiving on 11/14, two weeks before Thanksgiving. Most who were invited were able to attend, because they weren’t traveling.
Get the word out early, and follow up. I sent out invitations 3 weeks before the event, then sent a reminder 1 week before the event. Stress the need to RSVP, so that enough food and supplies can be purchased.
Plan meals that accommodate various food sensitivities and preferences. Main dishes and several sides or appetizers that can accommodate vegan / vegetarian friends, along with gluten or other food intolerances, help create a welcoming atmosphere.
Create a timeline for what goes in the oven when, right after you settle on your menu and before you add your dishes to your spreadsheet. As the turkey rests, you can add 4-5 additional dishes into the oven that you’ve prepared while the turkey was roasting.
Create a GoogleSpreadsheet that everyone can view and edit. That way, your potluck can avoid having too many desserts and not enough greens. If there are dishes you’d like to have that you don’t have the wherewithal to prepare – like sweet potatoes, or a green salad – tap your most reliable guests to prepare them.
Create a To Do list for the week of the event. Here was mine:
- 2 weeks before event: confirm that you have sufficient tupperware, servingware, and fridge space. Finalize your mealplan; list out which ingredients you need to purchase, and where you will buy them. Subdivide your master list into 2-3 shopping trips, based on the amount of perishable and nonperishable food you will purchase.
- 1 week before event: pick up cups, utensils, tablecloths. Conduct first round of shopping, prioritizing food that will keep (turkey, meats and cheese, root vegetables, canned goods, boxed mixes).
- 5 days before event: deep clean house, wash all dishes, determine where tables and dishes will go.
- 3 days before event: pick up perishable food – herbs, vegetables, fruit. Hit the grocery store in the early morning to avoid crowds.
- 1 day before event: pick up most perishable food – cakes, breads, anything that needs to be at the peak of freshness. Boil eggs, pre-chop your vegetables, prepare any stock you might need. Do any last-minute vacuuming and surface cleaning you might need to do.
- Day of:
- Roast any vegetables you might need to that will keep, before you focus on the turkey.
- Prepare your turkey.
- Prepare whatever food will be roasting after the turkey has cooked.
- Do the dishes.
- Baste, baste, and baste again.
- Rest the turkey, and rotate into the oven any foods that need to roast.
- Take out the trash and recycling.
- Prep drinks, and assemble any punch.
- Do the dishes again.
- Get changed!
- Set out appetizers, drinks, and desserts.
- Ensure each dish has servingware. Light candles in the bathrooms.
- Put up signage (using self-stick easel pads) to clarify which dish is where, and what allergens are in each dish. Group foods together – for instance, separate vegan-friendly options from the vegetarian and meaty dishes on both a list, and in your kitchen; make sure any meat in otherwise vegetarian dishes is visible to the eye – eg big chunks of bacon in your brussels sprouts.
- Leave out markers so that guests can add their potluck dishes to your menu listing.
- Throw the turkey back in the oven for 10-15 minutes so that it’s warm when guests arrive.
- Have an amazing time!
- Crudites and fresh fruit
- Cheese plate and crackers
- Hummus and olive tapenade
- Figs, coconut dates, and pecans
- Sriracha deviled eggs
Vegan and gluten free:
- Garlic mashed potatoes with vegan cream (1 whole onion, 3 heads roasted garlic) and soy cheese
- Roast turnips and mushrooms
- Garlic greens
- Store-bought flan
- Vegan pumpkin parfaits