Little known fact about Laura: I can start a load of laundry, brush my teeth, plan dinner, write a grocery list, and instruct four different children on six different chores all at the same time, but for all of my multi-tasking abilities, I cannot talk and cook simultaneously.
I try to fake it. I’ll stir together cookies while chatting with a friend in the kitchen, and attempt to sound intelligent when answering a question. This works not at all. She’ll ask how long we’ve lived in this house, and I’ll look lamely up from my cocoa powder and answer, “blue.” She’ll try again, asking where I got my lovely serving platter. I’ll blink a few times in an effort to pull myself into the conversation, and come up with “last week at a soccer game.” You think I’m kidding. God bless our house guests.
Occasionally, I will actually answer questions correctly while cooking (and even ask a few brilliant ones) only to realize later that I forgot to stir important ingredients like oil or eggs into our breakfast muffins. We already know I struggle with remembering to put bananas in my banana bread – and that’s when I’m all alone in the kitchen holding only a conversation with myself (don’t ask). It’s rather scary and a wonder friends and loved ones still eat my food and declare it to be good.
Because I love extending hospitality, but I also love not looking and sounding like a dimwit, I work to prepare as much food ahead of time as possible before guests arrive. It is my number one hospitality survival tactic. This also helps insure that I will not be working in the kitchen the entire time my company is here. I love to cook, but when guests are here, I’d much rather play games, watch the kids play, or sit around and visit intelligently. (Eleven. We’ve lived in this house for eleven years. It was a wedding gift. The platter, not the house. Try to keep up.)
In addition, prepping food ahead of time means that the worst of the dirty dishes are cleaned up and put away. I’ve also found that when some of the guests are children who eat as much and as frequently as mine, having snacks and meals prepared is helpful in avoiding melt-downs and grumpiness. As we all know, a grumpy hostess melting down in the kitchen is ugly. (Right. You thought I was talking about the kids.)
One more thing to note: Beyond preparing food ahead of time, I feel it is important to keep meals simple. Guests don’t need gourmet, they just need food served with love. They don’t need fancy, they just need tasty. A fruit platter is beautiful, nourishing, and delicious. A lettuce salad tosses together quickly. Veggies steam in no time. Put those together with a casserole or another main dish you’ve prepared ahead of time, and you’ve got a perfect, simple meal to serve to guests.
So just in case you find yourself like me, with the inability to cook and talk at the same time, do the best you can to prepare food ahead of time. If all else fails, remember to keep a smile on your face at all times. You might respond to your guest with “in the refrigerator behind the peanut butter” when asked where your bathroom is located, but at least you’ll look cute.
Can you talk and cook at the same time? (If your answer doesn’t make sense, I’ll assume you’re adding spices to your sauce.)