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Having people over for dinner... agh, I'm crazy!

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Old 05-07-2009, 07:08 PM   #1
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Default Having people over for dinner... agh, I'm crazy!

And this isn't about the calories!

Okay, so I had a pretty isolated childhood, with a bipolar single mom who was convinced that everyone around her was constantly judging her. Plus we lived out in the country, so no one ever came over to our house. Like, ever! So I definitely didn't grow up learning how to host people or throw dinner parties or anything. But I've always wanted to learn! Some of our friends are so gracious and amazing at having people over... it always feels so warm and welcoming at their homes, and they don't seem to be stressed out at all.

But whenever I try to have people over, ugh. Everything from asking them if they'd like to come over to deciding what to serve to the conversation around the table just feels SO awkward and stressful for me. I don't understand it, when we go over to someone else's house I feel great, no problem feeling comfortable and holding up my end of the conversation. For starters, I'm not a great cook, and while I don't try to make anything fancy (a few months ago we had a friend over for grilled ham and cheese, literally), I still manage to overthink it and screw it up. I just feel like they're not having a good time, it's not "fun", I don't know how to relax and make them feel at home.

Sigh. So of course I just asked some friends over for dinner this weekend. Already I feel really weird about it, even though it's something I really wanted to do. The last time they came over, I made a boring pesto pasta that was cold by the time I served it, and in a weird bowl that definitely didn't feel "casual". The only good part of the meal was the bread they brought over.

Does anyone else stress out about this stuff? Am I screwed cause I didn't get to learn it from my mom? Help!! :P
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Old 05-07-2009, 07:34 PM   #2
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Well, I'm from a family of 'entertainers' so I admit that I don't usually stress about people coming over. Keeping stuff warm can be a challenge though, especially pasta. What I'll often do for pasta dishes is cook the pasta a few minutes less, then finish it off in the oven. Most recently I've done baked pasta (cooking the pasta, pour it into an oven proof dish, sprinkle some cheese on it, then pour a meat sauce - which is half turkey - over the whole thing and bake about 30 minutes). I would then serve it out of the oven proof dish at the table.

When the weather is hot, and nobody wants to cook, I've been known to make up a platter with smoked turkey, roast beef, mixed cheeses, pickles, olives etc. Then serve it with deli purchased crusty rolls and put butter and mustards on the side. You can add a side salad to that and it's a perfect summer meal. I'll likely be going to a Victoria Day party in a few weeks and she usually makes a big batch of chili, with rice, and serves them in crockpots (we all eat outside no matter how cold it is).

As to the making conversation, that you'll just have to work on. It's probably not as bad as you think, really. Otherwise, people would say no when you asked them over.

Good luck with your company!
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Old 05-07-2009, 07:39 PM   #3
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You are so totally not alone. I grew up in an isolated house, but whenever my mom "entertained", it was the most stressful, irritating time EVER. I picked up NO skills in that department. Just think, you learned by example, so now you need to pick up those habits which you want to work at and will serve you well.
I found these online for you --the first is a really great way to start on the path to having a great dinner party:
http://www.bestsyndication.com/?q=11...ival-guide.htm
and this one is a great step-by-step "how to":
http://www.tutorials.com/05/0548/0548.asp
Although there are some who have an innate ability to host great parties, I really have to work at it...you are NOT alone!
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Old 05-07-2009, 07:41 PM   #4
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EASY JAJABEE!

Just be yourself...if the people accepted your invite then they must want to see you!

We are having our vicar and his wife, from church, over tomorrow night. Since my wife and I both have to work we will throw together carnitas and black bean tacos. Real easy...with sodas, wine and beer and maybe a margarita.

We get the pre-packaged carnitas at Costco...pork...then stir fry it up in a pan with red and green bell peppers and onion...way good....I have the black bean taco and feta cheese recipe posted in Vegetarian Chicks...

Again...be yourself...have fun!

Gary
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Old 05-07-2009, 07:58 PM   #5
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I don't handle having people in my house very well. Last time, I had a panic attack, to recover, I ate my self sick(when no one was looking of coarse). That was Jan and my last binge. I don't think I had ever realized before that I had used food to medicate. I had a whole bunch here that night, my Sunday school class for a Superbowl party. Luckily my husband is a social butterfly and has no problem keep conversation going. All I can say is keep trying, thats my plan. Practice has got to make perfect eventually right?
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Old 05-07-2009, 10:59 PM   #6
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Wow, thanks everyone! Kira, those links are GREAT! And EZ, I did go check out the black bean tacos you posted, they look perfect! Of the four of us, two are vegetarian (the guys, go figure), and I don't think we've had tacos together yet. Those look like a fun twist with the feta and such. Can you tell me how you "fill" the tacos after they've been folded in half and fried? Do you just pry them open a little?

It's good to know I'm not the only one... I just worry constantly that I push my friends away by being either too "weird" (not "liking Star Trek" weird, but "saying inappropriate things" weird) or too distant... I finally started therapy a month ago, but so far we're still talking about my mom, not about how to have people over for dinner without making them hate me. Hopefully that comes soon!
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Old 05-07-2009, 11:38 PM   #7
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I also grew up in a non-company house. I don't remember us ever inviting non-family over for dinner. I still don't ever entertain anyone other than family, and even that is limited to once or twice a year. My main thing is that I'm a bit messy, so it's stressfull for me to have to clean my ENTIRE HOUSE up to my mom's standards. Once everyone is here, it's fine--the "kids" are all young adults and they keep us entertained with stories, and we all sit around the fireplace and eat junk (it's a Christmas party).

One thing that I did enjoy when my kids were in school was having all their friends over. I quickly realized that they don't care about how clean the house is or whether or not the meal is balanced; they're cared about having a full plate of pizza or burgers. That was pretty easy entertaining!
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Old 05-09-2009, 10:33 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jajabee View Post
.... And EZ, I did go check out the black bean tacos you posted. Can you tell me how you "fill" the tacos after they've been folded in half and fried? Do you just pry them open a little?
Sorry JAJABEE ~ I didn't come back here. When you fry the tacos take a pair of tongs and hold the taco open a bit while you flip them over, it will fry up on both sides and be opened for fillings.

Angie and I made them again last night, for company from church, and just warmed them up on a skillet with a little pam on the corn tortillas...no need to fry them that way.

I hope your time with friends was cool

Take Care ~ Gary
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Old 05-10-2009, 04:40 AM   #9
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OK this may not be related to dinner's and parties BUT... I am kinda in a same boat with you. I like other's work better than mine just because i am over judging myself. I am too harsh on myself with whatever i do. I am a photographer and to be honest its the hardest thing ever for me to like my photos. I always admire other's results better than mine. This may be true in yoru case too, i dont know.
I am much better at that now than i was, say, 1 year ago. I think it gets better with practice!
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Old 05-11-2009, 01:23 PM   #10
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Thanks Gary! We didn't end up having the original guests over, they had a sad turn of events with a family pet that day, but we did have another friend over, and I made the tacos. They were good! I did have a little trouble getting the fillings in... mostly cause I was making 6 of them, and it was just a lot of work. I was also using the beans from an Amy's Black Bean Soup can, so it was a little runnier than it should have been. Next time I'll use real beans, and maybe add some cayenne pepper. But yeah, I got lots of compliments on them, and it was a fun easy meal with some spanish rice on the side.

It's weird, though... I was a lot more relaxed than I usually am when we have people over (though this was a very easy friend to have over), but still, as soon as we sat down to eat, I started getting a little stressed... I don't know what it is, anxiety over my cooking or conversation skills or what, but I started to zone out a little and even feel kind of grumpy! I don't do that at any other dinner gathering, only when I'm cooking for guests. Hmmmmmm. Well, I'll just have to keep practicing, like y'all say, and hopefully I'll eventually overcome this weird stumbling block. :P
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