Tricky Holiday Dining Event #4: Hosting the Holiday Meal

Hosting the holiday dinner in your own home is quite possibly the easiest route to go.

Unless you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy cooking, preparing the holiday meal in your very own kitchen allows you to take complete control over what will be served, rest assured there are no tricky hidden ingredients to be cautious of and grant you the creative freedom to impart your personal spin on each and every dish you present.

So how is this tricky, then?

Enter the guests.

Not just any guests….picky, fussy guests.

While we’ve got to be respectful of our own dietary preferences and not feel compelled to bake fresh dinner rolls that are loaded with gluten, we also do have to appreciate guests’ requests, just the same as we’d hope they’d do for us if they were hosting the main event.

As shocking as it may be, not everyone enjoys a raw kale salad and prefers cauliflower mash to the white potato tradition.

In addition, a Christmas or Hanukkah celebration is not exactly the ideal time to decide you’re going to try to convince your grandmother that she’s better off avoiding that canned cranberry sauce in order to manage her diabetes.

Don’t fret; once again it’s a case of not thinking about this situation in a manner that is too black and white.

Optimize or what you feel you must serve based on demand and consider how you might prepare and present it so that all parties are happy.

  • Healthy Eaters. Are most of the guests health-minded and keen to eat anything and everything you cook?   I’ve found that the more I entertain, the more guests arrive hungry and ready, willing and eager to eat the food that they’ve come to learn will be delicious, rather than skeptical that they’re going to receive a meal that is indeed healthy, but that lacks flavor. If most of the folks attending fall into this category and there’s only the one particular person, speak with them in advance and ask what they’d really enjoy for their meal. I attended a holiday dinner last season where this occurred and it turned out that the guest wanted only to enjoy a freshly baked loaf of bread, which he brought dipped in olive oil. Reserve judgment on that for a moment; the guest was happy and the hostess didn’t have to do any extra work.
  • Kinda Sorta. There is a middle ground, too.   You have a sense, no doubt, of whether or not its worth offering a healthy, paleo inspired meal to your guests and whether or not their personalities are open to trying updated versions of traditional favorites that feature the flavor profiles they expect, but are lighter and have less detrimental side effects. Crisp salads to begin the meal instead of pastry wrapped sausages, veggie sides of sprouts with uncured bacon and sautéed wild mushrooms instead of green beans with fried onion rings or stuffing and, of course, a perfectly roasted wild bird all demonstrate the delicious aromas without the gluten, the deep frying and the lethargy that follows when either of the two are eaten!
  • Pass the stuffing please? Perhaps you found yourself roped into hosting for a group of friends or family whose eating habits leave a lot to be desired. This is often the case with clients who’ve made huge headway in terms of cleaning up their own eating routine, only to find themselves stifled when they go home for the holidays. Equally as challenging to handle from a social perspective but when you’re in your own home, you’ve got the upper hand. If the relatives are coming to visit and are insisting on the Stove Top stuffing, the canned sweet-potato and marshmallow casserole and pie after pie, it may actually be easiest to step aside and let them do their thing in the kitchen at another time than when you’re preparing the healthy dishes you want to eat.   You will be able to eat exactly what you want while the guests (even if they are family) who really want to go to town eating all the not-so-good-for-you-stuff can do so. Plus, since we all know we can catch more flies with honey, don’t be surprised if your cousin or auntie approach you the next day asking for info on how you’re eating, since they’ll be in a food hangover state while you wake up refreshed and head out for your normal morning run!

Whichever the case may be, approaching the meal, and the preparation in the right state of mind is key.   I do cringe on the inside sometimes when I see a friend or family member, who I know is dealing with a health issue, dip into more bread and butter or pile on the deep fried, battered calamari, but as we all know, each of us will only make a change to our eating and exercise habits when we’re good and ready. So, breathe and focus on the fact that at the very least, each guest is enjoying his or her meal… even if that meal does consist of something you wouldn’t choose to eat. No sense ruining the ambience and overall enjoyment of the evening over it!