In this classic episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show, Mary throws a dinner party. Her obsessive-compulsive friend Sue-Ann offers to make dinner, but prepares exactly six portions. Watch the first minute or two of the scene, when a guest takes more than his share.
Has you ever run out of food for your guests? As hosts, we have to balance preparing more than enough with having to throw out leftovers. And just like at Mary’s party, the unexpected can happen: Someone who offers to prepare food doesn’t bring enough, extra guests turn up, or one guest is unusually hungry. Maybe a dish you plan to serve gets ruined.
Here are some tips for when you realize that you may be short on food when company comes.
- Relax. Most of the time, hosts prepare more than enough food, and in the end there turns out to be plenty. Guests naturally take an appropriate amount—ones like Lou are rare.
- FHB. This stands for “Family Hold Back.” Politely inform family members to take a small portion or wait until everyone else has been served (good manners even when there is plenty, particularly for children).
- Bring out food from the pantry. You can make an excellent tuna, bean or corn salad from cans and a raw vegetable or two.
- Serve it yourself. Notice how, in the video, Mary offers the entire platter to Lou? She could have asked him to hold it, then served the portion directly to his plate. Or she could have filled the plates in the kitchen, like caterers often do.
- Cut portions small. This helps most when you have one item you are afraid will go fast.
- Distraction. If some of the serving platters get scraped clean, remove them from the table and pass around the rest. Or just move on to dessert, start a game, or ask a provocative question.
If you do run out of food, don’t apologize. Your guests are probably full, and may not have even noticed.
Food is only one part of entertaining. They key to good hosting is keeping a smile on your face even when things don’t go as planned.
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