It is the holiday time of year which means lots of parties, family gatherings, and holiday events. Spending time with the people we love – family and extended family.
Growing up, my mom was the ultimate “hostess with the mostest.” Our house was always a gathering place.
I was always amazed at how well things came together. She planned the meal, the decorations and made sure everything came together in an attractive range of colors. When she said, “dinner will be served at 5:00 PM,” dinner was served at 5:00 PM, give or take ten seconds. Hot foods hot, cold foods cold. She always seemed to pull it all off effortlessly, never breaking a sweat or allowing anyone in the kitchen to help. Okay, maybe a little help but not much.
I didn’t inherit this gene. There have been periods in my life when things may have come together but then there were those times when I was just moments from a melt-down. And by the time my guests arrived, the last thing I wanted to do was eat. All I wanted to do was hide in my bedroom until they were gone! I can even remember cooking my first turkey and forgetting to take out the “bag with the gizzards and stuff out”. Yup, we found it when we cut the turkey. I was horrified!
Do you get caught up in kitchen chaos when you’re trying to practice hospitality? Do gatherings make you excited, nervous and down right sick? Here are five steps to create kitchen calm I found in a recent blog:
1. Take breaks
Breaks are vital to self-soothing when chaos starts creeping in. They aren’t a luxury, they’re a necessity. Taking a break simply means getting out of the kitchen for a few minutes and …
…sitting in a favorite chair with a good book.
…reclining on the couch (with or without a purring cat!)
…listening to quiet (or upbeat) music.
…taking a brisk walk.
…whatever else works for you!
The goal is a mind set change. Think of it as “cleansing the palate” of your head and heart before you move on to the next step of meal preparation.
2. Make a written plan
I have always written the menu and gotten all of the ingredients together. My problem always seems to be I get them in the oven okay but then I end up with some dishes done too early while other still need to cook. It took awhile but now I work backwards. I figure out how long each dish needs to bake, cook, set, or chill. Then I do the math to calculate when I need to begin. Calculations are far more realistic than gut feels or guilt-filled “shoulds” will ever be. Instead of beating ourselves up, we can assure ourselves—It takes as much time as it takes.
3. Prepare ahead
Chaos always seemed to result when planning a gathering because I waited too long to start or didn’t allow anyone to help. Now, part of my plan includes figuring out everything I can do ahead of time and what I can delegate.
House cleaning. Not a strong point so I now start cleaning days prior and do strategic touch-ups on the day of. Additional advance preparation includes:
- buying pre-made ingredients rather than making everything home-made.
- doing all the chopping, slicing, and dicing a day or two ahead.
- taking the first step of a recipe (such as cooking the rice for a casserole) the night before.
Fixing a meal feels so much less daunting when everything is ready to “throw and go”!
4. Accept help
This was a hard lesson to learn. I still struggle with shooing everyone out of the kitchen mainly because I never want to admit I need help.
Now, when someone says, “How can I help?” I refer to my plan and give them a specific answer. “Could you peel and slice the carrots? ” “Would you put those rolls in the basket?” “If you could pour the drink—it’s on the top shelf of the frig.”
5. Clean as you go
This is one is easy for me. I quickly scrub and rinse everything in the sink and set it all in the dish drainer to air dry. I use a towel as necessary and put everything back where it belongs. It makes clean up so much easier and is a smart step toward sanity. Starting the next stage of meal preparation in a clean kitchen automatically creates a sense of calm.
Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!