I love entertaining.
For the last ten years, I have been in and out of pokey little apartments, where you could barely fit a full-sized couch, let alone host a dinner party.
And yet, earlier this year my partner and I moved into a larger, human-sized apartment. And adult entertaining was finally, finally a possibility.
In the handful of times I’ve thrown dinner parties this year, I’ve learnt one very important lesson: millennials f*cking suck at entertaining.
From ensuring there is sufficient wine, to asking about food allergies, to checking the cutlery is clean before your guests arrive (sorry, friends), dinner parties take a considerable amount of planning and organisation. Two things our generation are not particularly good at.
So, with another dinner party booked in for later this week, I thought I would share my top tips to hosting guests at your house.
THE MILLENNIAL'S GUIDE TO DINNER PARTIES
Step One: Check your pans.
Yes, I am being serious. I know that you have that fancy chicken pie recipe ready to rumble, but do you have a pie dish? No? Of course you don't have a pie dish. Go and buy a pie dish.
And whilst you're at it, check that you have all the other equipment required: baking trays? Pastry brush? Cake tins? A chopping board that doesn't look like a petrie dish of salmonella?
Step Two: Plan your day.
If you have been reckless enough to plan a mid-week dinner party, then you've really screwed up. You're going to need everything ready to go, like, three days before the dinner.
Reality check: you are going to have enough time to get home, brush your hair, and hide your dirty clothes under the bed before your guests arrive. Plan ahead, or else everyone is going to be eating at midnight...and no one has enough wine to allow that to happen.
Step Three: Don't be a hero.
Now I know that you're four chapters deep in Donna Hay's cookbook, but here's a word of advice: keep it simple. Like, really simple. One-pot-wonder kind of simple.
Avoid anything in pastry, or that requires specific cooking times. And for goodness sake, do not try a roast for the first time in your life. It's going to go one of two ways: raw, or as rough and weathered as Johnny Depp's face.
My top three recipe collections for EASY dinner party mains:
Step Four: Check for allergies or fussy people.
Of course you will know if any of your guests are vegan, because they would have told you that several times already. But make sure you put out the call for any allergies. You don't want any anaphylactic fits at the dining table - that's a big dinner party no-no, especially before dessert.
Fussy people are slightly different: you have the right to ask them if there is anything they don't like (you better have a pen and large piece of paper), but you also reserve the right to tell them to harden up. Or give them frozen fish fingers like they deserve.
Step Five: A small group is a good group. Oh, and odd numbers.
I am quite sure there would be a proper fancy-people rule applying to numbers of guests for a dinner party, but here's my tipoff: more than three (that's just weird) and less than eight (because most tables won't fit any more people).
Take a good long hard look at yourself/ your dining area and think: really, how many people can I fit? And how many do I actually want to pay to feed? And how many plates do I own?
Step Six: Drink before they arrive.
One full glass of red wine. It will make you nicer. And you won't look as terrified.
Step Seven: Never criticise your own cooking.
It's like a placebo effect: provided you look like you're enjoying that burnt roast chook, the others will too. Make encouraging noises, and compliment the ingredients - "Aren't the sprouts just so lovely this time of year!"
It will make you look like you actually have some kind of idea what those green bits are, and maybe even trick them into thinking you didn't just pick them up from Safeway twenty minutes ago.
Step Eight: Napkins.
Nothing says, "I got my sh*t together" like napkins. Cloth ones. And don't give me that look - you can buy them from Woolies for under $10. Oh, oh, wait: CANDLES. Candles also indicated moderate to high levels of coping as an adult.
Step Nine: Tackle the onions before everyone arrives.
It's Murphy's Law: you will never have teared up at a pungent onion in your life, but as soon as you have people literally about to walk through your door, those damn onions are going to have you sobbing like it was the Offspring finale.
Chop them up before applying mascara. Thank me later.
Step Ten: It's all in the music.
Above all else, good music can save terrible food. Go for something like Postmodern Jukebox, which is just the right level of relaxed/ cool/ unusual/ trendy. Do not play anything that will give your guests the impression they should put their keys in the bowl.
And do not play Beiber. Just don't. Yes, I know his new stuff is pretty good. Just don't.
And remember, if you really terrible at cooking, you can always just made them cake in a mug: