NEW YORK — Perhaps the most anticipated aspect of the holiday season is the holiday meal. Many people look forward to the food just as much as they look forward to the festivities. This could be why the average person gains a pound or two from the period of Thanksgiving up until New Year’s Day.
Planning a holiday gathering and meal can be stressful for hosts or hostesses. There seems to be a lot of pressure placed on the person in charge. However, establishing a wonderful and stress-free meal is possible with a few easy-to-follow tips.
Holiday meals can be traditional or avant garde. There are many options from which to choose, but one thing to keep in mind is to select foods that go together.
Those new to holiday hosting may want to stick with items that are well known and expected, such as turkey and trimmings. Those who want to experiment may want to introduce one or two new dishes into the mix.
Food choices should be about what your guests will want to eat and not about which items will ensure a spectacle.
Another thing to consider when planning the meal is the amount of time you have for food preparation and cooking.
The holidays are a busy time of the year, and work and social engagements may continue up until the eleventh hour. Choose foods that can be prepared in advance and heated on the holiday if you’re time-pressed. Or simply choose easy-to-make dishes that won’t take much time.
Once foods are selected, review all recipes and make a list of the ingredients you will need. This will serve as a shopping list to take to the store.
Also see which items you have on hand in the pantry. Look at expiration dates and be sure that everything is top quality. If in doubt, add it to your shopping list. Make a list of things that can be bought in advance (paper products, coffee, linens, etc.) and other items that need to be checked off closer to the actual holiday. Cross off each item once it is purchased.
Make a schedule or use a calendar to schedule when each component of the meal and other preparations will be made. This way you ensure you will stay on track and have everything done by the actual holiday.
If you find that time will be short, delegate some jobs to others. For example, if a grandmother or aunt is known for her prized potatoes or pies, ask her to make that item.
Some hosts and hostesses turn the holiday meal into a potluck where everyone is encouraged to bring one item and the host simply provides the main dish. This can cut down on the work involved and make others feel they’ve contributed to the sentimental holiday meal.
While not everything will work out exactly as you expected, chances are little glitches will not even be noticed by guests unless you point them out. And even if they are noticed, these are close friends and family who will not judge small mistakes.
Too often holiday hosts and hostesses worry so much about impressing guests with lavish foods and festivities that they fail to enjoy the actual day with their guests. Leave time to sit and chat and, most importantly, relax.