Everybody loves a party — this much is universal for all but the most introverted, stay-at-home individuals. Whether it’s because it’s a good chance to se people you seldom get to, the opportunity to relax and let go, or even just because you enjoy the buzz of social activity, there’s something for everyone in a good shindig.
However, cooking for a large gathering can be a nightmare. After all, even before you get to the hassle of actually preparing and serving any foodstuffs, you already have a lot to account for. The number of guests, the sorts of food you want to serve, any special dietary requirements or allergies, and whether or not you want to have it prepared before they arrived or as the party is in full swing are all things you have to consider. It’s almost enough to make some wonder if it’s worth the effort.
So what can a poor, distressed host-in-the-making do? What alternatives are there to slaving over your stove? Thankfully, we live in an age of on-the-go food, take-out and online ordering, so it turns out you have more choices than you may have first assumed.
For those looking for something new and somewhat grandiose, you could go for a hog roast. This is pretty much as it sounds: a large pig is roasted on a spit for all to see, or indeed whatever animal you prefer. Many companies can be hired to prepare this sort of thing for you at your home, and it certainly makes an impression on the guests. Don’t think that you’re stuck with pig either, caterers can also prepare lamb for those looking for something more kosher or halal. If you’re feeling particularly enterprising, you can try to do this yourself. Following the low-and-slow method typically exercised in roasts, you can rest assured that while you’ll need some time for it to cook, the heat will be doing most of the work for you as you entertain your guests.
Be aware that a hog roast is a time-consuming item to prepare, needing at least a few hours to ensure that the pig is properly cooked. Likewise, once the pig has been picked clean, you probably won’t have another one lined up. As such, only use it for gatherings of around fifty people or less to ensure everyone gets a good share, and that anyone you hire arrives several hours before the guests do.
Ordering Food and Wine From Specialists
A simpler solution would be ordering food directly from a specialist. This saves time, space and ensure you can tailor your food to precisely your needs, although naturally it’s a little more expensive than buying and cooking your own food. Many companies are available that provide this service, including Shop Rite Wine, which offers a broad range of food and wines ready to order for any party or event you happen to be hosting.
Hiring a Caterer
Another alternative is to hire a caterer to come to you. Similar to the hog roasts, the caterer will need time and space in order to prepare their food, and most will bring their own ingredients and supplies with them. By all means, though, if you want to provide specialist ingredients (such as vegan or halal), most caterers will be happy to work with them. This is expensive, of course, but means the food is freshly and professionally cooked.
Ordering Take Out
If the gathering you’re not too keen on cooking for is fairly casual and informal, there is nothing at all wrong with ordering take-out. Whether it’s pizza, Chinese, fried chicken or anything else you care to name, the results are the same. People are allowed to order their preferred menu items, the costs are very low (most takeout companies will give discounts for large orders) and it doesn’t take terribly long. You can either handle all the expense yourself, or ask your guests to contribute.
Of course, this is only for very informal gatherings. If the party you’re hosting is more highbrow, such as a wedding reception or a Thanksgiving dinner, then takeout would not really be seen as appropriate. Consider it akin to wearing dungarees and flip-flops when receiving the President.
Bring Your Owns
Finally, you could also state that the party is a BYOF/BYOB, which stands for Bring Your Own Food/Booze respectively. Basically, each guest brings something of their own to the table rather than having you provide everything yourself. On some levels this can be very enjoyable – some people love to cook and love to show off what they can do in the kitchen. It also means a lot less stress for you. Rather than cooking for everyone, you now just have to prepare one or two dishes. It also makes cleaning a lot less of a hassle, as people will take their plates and platters back home with them.
Another small bonus is that it allows people with specific dietary requirements to provide things that they can actually eat, which means you have a little less to worry about and they can still enjoy some food while at the party.
Again, this depends on the group. Some gatherings won’t socially allow you to pass the cooking onto other people, as it would be seen as lazy or cheap. There’s also the risk that one of the guests thinks they can cook, but actually shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a kitchen. This can lead to some discomfort, if at no other time than when they ask how you enjoyed what they made.
Christian Mills is a freelance writer and family man who contributes articles and insights on a variety of topics affecting family and the home. His dinner parties are simply not to be missed.