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“Proper prior planning prevents putridly poor performance.”
A friend and fellow teacher of my husband’s shared this quote with his students and with the high school he taught in. He would share it the first day of every school year as he felt it was the key to his students’ success. He was an honored guest in our home and had shared the quote with me. It stuck.
He has been gone now almost 15 years—he discovered the summer of his first year of retirement that he had cancer.
I continue to use his quote, and I use it often. I use it to remind myself of how to pull off things that seem challenging—some things that even seem to be impossible.
Today, I choose to use it here.
How to cook for a party of 16 in a kitchen built for two.
First, proper prior planning and preparation are paramount to successfully putting it together.
Second, working with a menu that you are somewhat familiar with can make all the difference. I love to cook and feed people. My kids and husband know it to be my love language.
I use many different foods and recipes and make them my own by omitting or adding ingredients. I have always cooked intuitively. Sadly, this does not work with baking.
The third and most important step will be saved for the end of this article.
The proper prior planning begins by making a food list, ensuring everything that you will need is on it. It will save you time running back and forth to the store for things forgotten.
We’ve entertained as many as 30 in our sweet little 1930s home. I believe hosting family and friends adds to its radiant vibration.
For this party, we will be serving soup, salad, a choice between two different entrees, vegetables, mashed potatoes, or rice pilaf. The desserts will be rice pudding and pumpkin mousse. The rice pudding will be made with love by my best friend. My husband made a special request that only she makes it because she makes it best and I listen.
I’ve completed my shopping the day before.
Next, I gather all the table settings, glassware, and silverware, making sure they’re spotless and ready to serve.
The party will be held outdoors where we have created the most magical serene backyard scene.
Lights strung, lanterns lit among the mums, seagrass, and browning summer flowers. An enormous fig tree and October daisies are nestled in the background under a thinning weeping willow. The moon, which is losing its fullness little by little, will hang above us.
There will be lots of laughter with shoulders wrapped in warm throws and lit faces by the fire’s light.
We will share our sadness for a friend who couldn’t make it due to his ongoing battle with cancer. Together we will send him the light and love that radiates from our hearts knowing he will feel it.
Now, to the third and most important piece to a successful evening of entertaining:
His presence and assistance are key to achieving the vision that I have. He lets me take the lead. He trusts my ideas while I plan.
I listen to his thoughts on this and that and mix them with mine to create the event.
Together, as we dance around our guests while plating and serving, we feel the connection that we’ve worked so hard to build. The communication no one will hear as we share a speechless understanding.
He and I go through this life together. Most of the time, it’s effortless. This is a connection I have never known.
A foundation that we work hard to keep kind and honest, continuously growing and evolving. Together but separate, focusing also on our own being and healing, we stand together.
In a kitchen built for two—he and I.
PS. I wrote this article in the kitchen the morning of our party using the romantic moments of parties past.
A few hours later our six-month-old dishwasher decided to stop working.
And so we had to pivot.
Even still, a magical night was had by all.
And so it is.