Chelle Summer

dinner parties


Michelle Rusk

I was reading a magazine the other day and, because it was a summer issue, a big focus was about summer entertaining, more specifically, how you do it. As I read the editor's letter that opened the issue, she talked about how one way to make entertaining easily is to think of the worst that can happen at a party because then nothing that bad will happen. The advice was silly and it seem unhelpful to me. So it got me thinking.

I began to think about why I find entertaining easy when many people see it as a challenge, one they often are too intimidated to take on (many people would rather attend a party than throw one). My parents didn't entertain a lot when I was growing up outside of family events, but those always sent Mom's stress level out the chimney because she wanted everything to be perfect. 

My own first forays into entertaining were high school cross country team spaghetti dinners when I started coaching as graduate student. And then when I married the first time, I had a Texan on my hands whose parents always seemed to have people over for meals.

It wasn't easy when I started. I could tell a lot of stories about things that have gone wrong (although I never had a squirrel running through my house via the chimney like my parents' next door neighbors did one Christmas Eve), but mostly what I've realized is that it's about practice.

The more you entertain, the better at it you get. It's no different than many of the other activities that I find fulfilling: creating, sewing, writing. The more I do them, the better I get at them. An early first married dinner party of trying to make chicken piccata taught me not to make something that you have to cook at the last minute and stand by the stove. Save that for smaller dinners. Instead, make something you can slide into the oven to bake for forty-five minutes. It gives you more time with your guests, too.

For me, I learn best by experience, by trying something. And isn't that what life is about? Trying new things, challenging ourselves? The more we do it, the more we grow. And the more we feel like our lives are well lived.