A big thanks to Marie Ricks who is doing today’s guest post on “Feeding Unexpected Company.”
Feeding Unexpected Company
Recently I had unanticipated company come to our home. First, I unexpectedly needed to prepare a full meal for a larger family. Just as we were finishing up our dinner, the doorbell rang and I needed a dessert for the second set of out-of-town company. (Luckily for me, both sets of company knew each other, although neither knew they would meet up at our home.)
Both times I felt my kitchen was too thinly stocked. (You know that feeling of slight panic as you search rather too quickly through the frig shelves, stare into the open freezer, and hide in the pantry as you peruse the shelving for some rescue.)
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Make it Pretty
I pulled the meal together using some cooked chicken pieces I had in the refrigerator that I made into a chicken macaroni casserole. I chatted with the close family members as I cooked frozen corn, opened chilled pears from the frig, and set the table. (The occasion of their being in town was sufficiently special to warrant my nicer, colored paper napkins, a floral tablecloth, and a lit-candle centerpiece. Notice that the candles are a neutral color for use again and again in any situation.)
When the second set of company came, I ignored my empty-handedness, didn’t even suggest that we have something to eat together, and hoped they didn’t notice. (You will perceive that I didn’t serve dessert to the first set of company either, as my creativity ran out about the end of the casserole preparations.) Afterwards, I wished there had been some small, sweet treasure to share.
I learned that a meager meal can be supplemented with décor to stave off the thin pickings. I also learned there is no emptiness like the emptiness of being caught unprepared.
Have a Plan
So my thoughts have drifted to a new, important place of company preparations, especially during summer weekends when company is more apt to drop by and say, “Oh, we just happened to be close and we haven’t seen you lately. May we come in?”
“Sure. We are glad you are here. Come in and I’ll prepare a small treat to share together.”
In order to be able to reply so confidently, I must prepare in two ways. I must know what I will serve with what I have on hand. And, I must have my pantry and refrigerator well-stocked with items that are reserved for just such needs. These items will be off limits for regular family meals, but will be used exclusively for company any time they arrive.
Stock the Pantry and Refrigerator
My plans are to have cooked, cut up and frozen chicken pieces in the freezer for use in making up the quick casserole as that worked well for me last Sunday. I’ll keep frozen corn in the freezer and two cans of pears on the back, bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
I’m also going to make up a batch of brownies, cut them up when they are cool, and keep them in the freezer with an unopened, labeled container of Dream Whip. When the unexpected company comes just for dessert, I will pull out the brownies, add a dollop of frozen cream, and top the dessert with a maraschino cherry (for looks).
Remember, as you go through each week, to look for ways to be prepared for the unexpected. Look for easy, permanent answers. Then apply the solutions you find and be ahead of your responsibilities, as much as possible, at all times.
For example, when I use up my frozen brownies the next time company arrives, I will add making a batch to my week’s chores and freeze them for the next need. I will add Cool Whip to my grocery list, too, so a new container is always at hand.
Good Food Makes for Good Memories
Then I will be more like my efficient aunt who many years ago, when her terminally-ill sister, my mother, came to the door with me in tow for a short, unexpected visit. This aunt produced several different kinds of cookies and a glass of cold milk to share as we visited the last time together as a threesome.
That memory is more treasured because my aunt had prepared sufficiently beforehand to treat us with gracious regard. That is more of the kind of hostess I want to be. “I’m ready for you to come any time you want and I’ll have something special to feed you as we chat together.”
You can check out Marie’s Master Menu Cookbook here.
Have you ever had to prepare a last minute meal for unexpected company?