Dear Mom Mom,
It seems whenever I host book club or a similar event, I tend to go way too far and put out enough food to feed the entire tri-county area. Can you help me with finding a good balance of feeling like I’ve got enough food to satisfy without going overboard and feeling guilty for throwing out tons of food at the end of the night? I would never want to be accused of not feeding my guests!
Bookclub and Clueless…
Dear Most Considerate Hostess,
This is such a great question, as so many people struggle with this very dilemma. I won’t pretend to be the authority on this (okay, who am I kidding? I always pretend to be the authority), but I will tell you what I try to do in similar situations.
In a rational moment, preferably at least one week or more before your event, sit down and determine your categories of food. For example: something healthy like a crudités or salad, some sort of chip and dip, a cheese tray with nice crackers or bread, a hot appetizer, and a couple of sweet things. That’s six things, and I think that is plenty for the average sized book group. If you insist, you can have seven things, but I don’t advise it. Seven is a slippery slope to eight…
Next, depending on your level of ambition, map out your specifics. Your chip and dip category can literally be simple potato chips and onion dip, or it can be some groovy recipe you saw in Bon Appétit or Gourmet magazine last month served with high end organic chips and hard-to-find ingredients. Take it category by category, and DO NOT BE TEMPTED to add more categories. Stick to the plan! After all, this plan was hatched in a rational moment, not in a frenzy two days before your guests arrive — THAT’S when we get ourselves into trouble and overbuy.
I try to mix it up between easy and ambitious. Definitely browse my Appetizer and Dessert section here and see if anything appeals to you. Sometimes popcorn is every bit the hit as the gorgeous torte I labored over for hours (and probably spent $30 to make). Places like Costco and BJ’s have great ready-made appetizers and desserts, and while I would never advise a whole party full of them, they are decent fill-in items.
Now, I can hear you saying, “But Mom Mom, what if it’s not enough? What if I run out of food?” First, believe me, you will not. But if you are so worried about this unlikely event occurring, you can stock your pantry with a few emergency items only to be opened if nothing is left. Don’t laugh, but I suggest something really junky like Doritos and a giant bag of M&Ms. Middle aged women who are perpetually on diets go nuts over that stuff, especially after a few cocktails. Also, if you keep a box of frozen appetizers such as Cohen’s (cocktail franks and assorted puff pastry) in the freezer, within 20 minutes, you have more hot food. If your book club is anything like mine, by that point in the night, no one will notice or care. The main idea is that your “emergency food” is something that can keep in a sealed bag or frozen, and therefore will not go to waste.
Finally, remember that all of your guests are so happy to be at your house enjoying cocktails and friendship (oh, and sometimes even the book discussion), so try not to stress out too much over the food. I know that sounds silly, coming from me, but it’s true.