Home Cooking Manifesto

A spectre is haunting Northern Europe, North America and parts of Australia -- the spectre of Home Cooking for Invited Guests. The perversion of Home Cooking in itself, if practiced in the seclusion of the private kitchen, is a matter between consenting adults and should not make tongues curl unduly. But it becomes a haunting spectre when made scandalously public, by the highly improper act of Inviting People Home for Dinner.

Care for my Home Heart Surgery, anyone?

Cooking is an Art form, like painting, composing music or writing poetry. Creating good art requires a gift for it, but gifted people are few and far between. This applies to the Art of Cooking as well. It is widely known that proficiency in the Art of Gourmet Cooking is a statistically rare occurence. Why then are people so eager to empirically prove -- beyond any reasonable doubt -- this deplorable statistic, by inviting friends and strangers to dinner -- in millions of American and Northern European homes? Not many are proud of their Home Heart Surgery or Home-Painted Matisse. Still, every home-made collapsed soufflé, every burnt bouillabaisse from the family hearth, is supposed to elicit sighs of admiration from disgusted dinner-guests.

Corrupting public morals

Hence the perversion of Home Cooking is not only hazardous for the palates of the dinner-guests. It also corrupts public morals by imposing a deplorable honesty-gap on the guests. As a dinner-guest, you are expected to be an accomplished liar and never utter the obvious: decent meals can only be had in decent restaurants, prepared by people who actually understand the Art of Cooking.

Guests should be taken to decent restaurants

In the culinarily competent cultures of Southern Europe (France, Italy, etc.), home cooking is not imposed on strangers. The stranger is prudently taken out to a decent restaurant instead. Thus the family's alimentary skeletons -- like Aunt Anna's overcooked vegetables and Mother Maria's terrible terrines -- remain safe among other unsavoury secrets, in the kitchen closet.

The Manifesto:

Eaters of all countries -- unite! Combat the perversion of Home Cooking for Invited Guests!

Those of us who were alive during the '50s and '60s probably fondly remember episodes of the television programs of the day which focused on "the Boss is coming to dinner." Back then, dinner parties at home were a more formal and frequent occasion than in the new millennium. It might just be my opinion, but it seems that the obligatory "having the neighbors over to dinner" and the requisite reciprocity have all but disappeared.

These days, a home dinner party is an affair held for one's friends or perhaps business associates. I am often invited to dinners at the homes of friends if only for the reason that I can be counted on to bring some good wine. Some of these affairs have been light-hearted, thoroughly enjoyable feasts. Some, sadly, left me feeling as if I'd just spent a day in the local jail and just couldn't wait to get out.

However, one needn't subscribe to the "Manifesto" of those who'd rather entertain in a restaurant in the name of "leaving it to the pros." A dinner party can be a thing of ease and delight (and much easier on one's pocketbook than a restaurant dinner) if some simple guidelines are followed.

Herewith I submit to you some suggestions for the host/cook:
 

Hosting the Home Dinner Party

Unless it's your "thing," forget about Martha Stewart and her hours of preparing crafty napkin-rings, ironing tablecloths and fancy baking. Here are some ideas to make your dinner party memorable.

  • Keep things simple. Don't take planning too seriously. And most of all, have fun.
     
  • Woody Allen said: "Sex is like having dinner: sometimes you joke about the dishes, sometimes you take the meal seriously.” Emily Post's advice about manners, which apply most of all to a dinner host/hostess: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”
     
  • With all due respect to Julia Child, and her fabulous tome "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," there's a cookbook that contains everything, I mean everything, the home cook needs to prepare delicious meals that will please nearly everyone. It's called "Joy Of Cooking" (Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker). It's been in print since, like, 1957. I suggest that before you go to the bookstore, pick up a pre-1981 version of the book. If it's not there, go to a used book store or get a used copy on Amazon.com or the like. (If you do buy it, buy the Plume edition, still in print, first printed in 1973, ISBN 0452263336) The later editions of this book, which have been continually updated to adapt to changing tastes and styles, have been mucked-around with by the original writers' daughters and a self-proclaimed Asian cooking maven. The result is that some of the superb old favorites have been deleted, and replaced by complex "ethnic" cooking which bears no resemblance at all to the real thing. Worse, the new book assumes some of the techniques which are outlined in delightful detail in the original versions.

An assumption made more and more often is that unless one is a gourmet chef, the proper dinner party should be hosted in a restaurant. Now, this is all well and good, however, not all of us have the means to host our dinner parties in a restaurant. A great dinner party at a fine restaurant from soup to nuts can today cost upwards of $150 per person. Another drawback to hosting one's guests in a restaurant is that there are things that one's guests simply cannot do in a restaurant (e.g., light a joint, linger until three o'clock in the morning) that one can in a private home.

First, let's assume one can, indeed afford a restaurant dinner party. Just think of what that kind of money will buy if you have the party in your home. Consider these ideas:

  • If one can at all afford it, hire help to assist with service and clean-up. There are plenty of agencies who send people out to do this and it shouldn't be too expensive. That way the host/hostess may enjoy the company of one's guests without being absent from the table/living room too frequently.
     
  • Fancy how far one's budget for liquor and wines will go. A bottle of wine available for $75 in a restaurant ought to be about $30 in a liquor store. If one of your guests is a wine snob, tell them what you're having for dinner and have them place the order for you to go to the liquor store to pick up, or have delivered. Otherwise, depend upon your wine shop personnel to recommend wines which will accompany the food being served. As far as liquor is concerned, it is perfectly appropriate to offer a bar as simple as the aforementioned wines, vodka, Scotch, Rum, Bourbon and some mixers. That's it. If the lushes want more then they can go to the local watering hole.
     
  • Simple food can be marvelous food. Even if you can't afford to have help, see the paragraph above about "The Joy of Cooking." That's all you need to know. And guess what? It's okay to serve cheeses as an hors d'oeuvre, a great salad, and a good roast chicken you got at the local gourmet market. Even more fun, to hell with cholesterol, buy Kentucky Fried Chicken and have a hands-on free-for-all. There's nothing wrong with eating KFC with a $150 bottle of Champagne, nothing at all.

If you do decide to get creative and cook, beware the following no-no's:

  • The only thing that one should purchase for the party from the Supermarket's freezer is the dessert. No ifs, ands, or buts.
     
  • Use nothing from a metal can. Nothing but for tomatoes/tomato sauce. Some jarred three-bean salads, pickled beets, and fancy relishes are alright, as well as jarred, marinated artichoke hearts.
  • Wine that comes in a bag-in-box is not wine. It's fermented grape juice stabilized and enhanced with chemicals. The same goes for the results of other chemistry experiments now labeled and sold for mass consumption such as "raspberry Merlot" and "Alize" of any flavor. If you're clueless, a) pick up some of the stuff you like yourself — for yourself; b) consult an expert — you'd be surprised how helpful wine store owners are if you just come out and say "hey, I'm a novice at this."
     
  • If your home normally uses lo- or no-fat milk, margarine, and the like, don't assume that your guests are as health conscious. Buy light cream for the coffee, buy butter, buy real milk for cooking, if necessary.

If you don't know what kind of salad to make, find all sorts of exotic goodies and make some very good dressings (olive oil and wine vinegar will do, also) don't use bottled dressing; they're full of sugar and other additives. Set all the goodies and some field greens out on the sideboard along with some nifty salad bowls and let your guests make their own. Some suggestions for your salad bar (because even adults like to play with food):

  • boiled eggs
     
  • Marinated artichoke hearts
     
  • Lightly-cooked and chilled French String Beans (haricots verts)
     
  • Three-bean salad from a jar
     
  • Various kinds of cheeses, sliced, shredded or chunked
     
  • Olives. One can never have too many olives
     
  • Fresh fruit, peeled and cut-up
     
  • Sliced raw mushrooms

Finally, if the centerpiece of the party is going to be something sit-down, like a movie, visit the local gourmet store and get snacks, including plenty of microwave popcorn. If there's going to be marijuana smoking involved, I suggest that before going to the store to purchase desserts and after-dinner treats like candies, ice-cream confections, bakery specialties, get high yourself so you don't buy too little!

On the other side of the coin, if this party is de luxe and the attendees are far too erudite for some good old-fashioned fun like a movie or cards, be sure you obtain the following:

  • XO Cognac
     
  • Fabulous coffee, served not only with cream and sugar but with chocolate shavings, cinnamon sugar, and whipped cream
  • Cigars which cost at least US$5 apiece for each guest

This way those who do smoke the cigars often will have great fun trying to keep from laughing at the idiots who smoke rarely or not at all.
 

A Few Final Thoughts

A close friend used to hire a rather large suite at a good hotel for every New Year's Eve and serve an entirely cold spread. His own home was furnished with priceless antiques and therefore his entertaining was limited to outdoor affairs in the summer months. Of course, this is a very expensive option but I thought I'd throw it out for those who, for one reason or other, cannot entertain in their own homes.

If your decision on cheese, foods, wines or liquors are made based on the need to impress someone else, you've invited the wrong people to your party. Such persons are, indeed, the ones who should be taken to a restaurant for dinner.

When in doubt, buy more. Make your table a groaning board. The left-overs can be frozen, and there's nothing more embarrassing than running out of anything when entertaining.

I've discussed here a feast for only three of the senses, basically. If all of your guests are of the same musical tastes, by all means, have everyone bring their favorite record. Discuss. This leaves us to the sense of sight.

The party that will always stand out in my mind the most was a surprise shower (the invitations specified modest gifts) for a bride- and groom-to-be. These two folks were the image of propriety when they had to be, but deep down inside they were a couple of devils. So were most of their friends. The hostess served a lovely, simple meal of fresh Mozzarella with tomatoes, filet mignon, two vegetables, and an assortment of Italian desserts with strong coffee, whipped cream and assorted cordials. The salad and dinner had been cleared by the hired help, and who should walk into the room bearing the dessert and coffee but a man and a woman wearing nothing but the tiniest of underwear (and tans that left me green with envy). I mean, these two individuals were stunning. This was an ingenious alternative to the rite of the stag party where only Heaven knows what goes on, and the boring bridal shower where everyone oohs and aahs over small kitchen appliances. Suffice it to say that by 2:00 in the morning all the boring guests had left. By 2:30 the two models were fucking like minks on the living room rug, and by 3:00 the party had turned into a semi-orgy.
 

Well, cheerio and good luck! Entertaining needn't be drudgery and can turn out to be rather fun!

I cannot help but think the writeup immediately above was written based on US economics.

The top writeup is something entirely different: written by someone whose friends can't cook. And yes, I agree. if you can't cook a decent meal, then don't try. It will only end up embarrassing you and your guests.

So here is my simple guide to entertaining at home. It is aimed, of course, at cheapskates like myself, who can't afford to take friends to a restaurant, but who, equally, like to cook.

Bear in mind that here in London a meal at a fairly average pizza restaurant can easily reach $75 per head. More if people have three courses and a few beers. My local fine dining restaurant has a price guide of $120 per head before wine.

In some parts of the world -- London included, taking friends to a restaurant for a casual meal is the province of the very wealthy.

This is emphatically not aimed at people stuck in a 1980s timewarp who think holding a dinner party means cooking a Michelin-star quality meal and have all the knives, forks and napkins to match.

The first, the main. and the primary rule is to keep it simple. You want to make your guests feel comfortable and you want to have a good time. You can't do that if you are ensuring that the soufflés are rising at the precise moment your guests are sitting down to eat. The second rule is that if you at all in doubt about cooking a particular dish, then don't. If there's nothing you feel comfortable cooking, then you can still entertain at home. Just buy in a take-away. Indian, Chinese, pizze, fish and chips: anything, so long as you know it's going to be good. Sharing food together is one of the oldest rituals of all time. And it's more about the sharing than the food. Or it should be.

So from long experience -- as both guest and host -- of dinner parties, supper parties, lunch parties and what have you, here is my recipe for a relaxed time with friends over food.

Budget

Make the meal fit your budget. It may seem strange, but if your friends are a great deal wealthier than you, they will completely understand why you do not serve vintage champagne and caviar and in fact are likely to be upset if you end up going into debt through excessive spending on expensive food and wine. Equally, if they have considerably less money than you, it might be best to go easy on the champagne and caviar as such extravagance is likely to make your guests feel uncomfortable. If your friends have roughly the same amount of money as you, then they know exactly what you are going through and understand your reasons for making whatever choices you made. Do what you want to do. Do what you can afford to do. The point is not to impress, but to make sure everyone feels relaxed and ready to have a good time. If that means bangers and mash and home-brewed beer, then that is just fine. If it means champagne and caviar, then that, too is just fine.

What not to serve

For better or worse, a lot of people are concerned about their weight and dietary intake. Find out ahead of time if any of your guests has any dietary preference: vegetarian / vegan / lactose intolerant / gluten intolerant or anything like that, and make sure you take that into account when doing the planning. Equally, you need to know if there are religious conventions to understand. It is impolite in the extreme to ask a person from a Jewish family to eat pork. It is no less rude to put a plate of beef in front of a Hindu or any kind of meat before a strict Sikh.

There are plenty of websites out there which give guidelines on the type of foods that different sects and creeds are allowed to eat, and more websites which give guidance on how rigorously those rules should be applied. If in doubt, ask your guests what they can and cannot eat.

Unless there are vegetarians coming, lamb is usually safe, while more exotic meats such as ostrich and crocodile can get around many religious limitations. Fish is always good, but you have to be a confident cook to get it right and smaller fish often require last-minute attention.

Hosting your guests in comfort

Once you know the dietary preferences of your guests, the next step to think about a menu. In an ideal world, you will find something that you feel comfortable cooking, that everyone can eat, and most should enjoy. If the world is not ideal, then you may have to offer options. Unfortunately, the more options you offer, the more work and planning you will be involved with, and the less relaxed you are likely to be for your guests.

It is a convention -- and a good one -- to offer something light before the main meal. In restaurants, this is a formal starter. Whether formal or informal, the purpose of this part of the meal is to help people to relax and to built their appetite. It is not to fill them up, so small quantities are good. At home, it is easier and more relaxed to offer light nibbles that people can use to whet their appetites before sitting down to the more formal part of the occasion. I don't just mean peanuts and crisps - though you can do that if you want. I mean something that is light on fat and salt, but is good to eat and starts to get the food juices flowing.

Ideally, use relatively strong flavours and minimal sugar at this stage of the meal. Sour and piquant tend to whet the appetite better than creamy or sweet. Offering bite-size pieces allows people to control their own food and calorie intake. If people do not want to eat much, they can take one or two of the nibbles, saving their stomachs for later in the evening. If they are hungry, then they can take the edge off their appetite by eating a lot.

Just as an aside, if you have limited plates, forks, etc, then serving starters in this way relieves pressure to wash those items before the main course.

Keeping yourself sane

When planning the main course, you need to think how it is going to work. First, you don't really want to pressure people into sitting down at a particular moment. Second, as host, you want to be relaxed when everyone else sits down.

Third, there will be different things cooking. There will be different types of vegetable, there might be meat, there might be sauces, there might be potatoes or rice. They all require different cooking times, but the aim has to be to get all of them to the point where they are not only edible, but delicious, at the same time as each other and also at the same time as your guests are ready to eat them.

Restaurants and those who entertain regularly end up doing this automatically, but for beginners, this is probably the most difficult to get right.

The secret is to arrange for as many of these dishes to have a wide window of serving time. If you cook sea bass, then there is a window of a minute, maybe two, when the fish is perfectly cooked. Outside that window, it quickly loses its delicious flavour and texture. A roast leg of lamb, on the other hand, has a 10 - 20 minute window of perfection and a much longer window when it is still delicious to eat.

Even a perfect steak has a reasonably wide window of serving time. If you take it off the heat when it is slightly less well done than desired, it can be left to rest in a warm place for up to 10 minutes with few ill-effects.

Rice, potatoes, polenta, cous-cous and most types of bread all have reasonably wide serving windows, so they are unlikely to lead to last-minute panics.

Vegetables, if steamed or boiled, have to be right. The window on boiled broccoli is probably less than two minutes; and only slightly longer if you steam it. You can aim to get the vegetables right, but it is often easier to offer raw vegetables, or a smart salad. These can be prepared ahead of time, so are not at all time-critical. If you want to offer something hot, then roasted winter vegetables have a wide window of serving time. Or slice and then gently cook leeks before mixing them into a béchemal to provide a tangy sauce that also has a wide serving window.

Wide serving windows mean more flexibility and fewer panics. Which makes for a more relaxed time so you can concentrate on your guests.

Serving is an issue at our dinner parties. Usually AspieMum and myself are involved in last-minute preparations. We aim to put the various dishes on the table in serving dishes and then simply encourage the guests to help themselves. The bonus here is that people can take as much or as little as they want, and if there is something they are not too keen on, then they don't have to take any, and are not forced to refuse repeated offers of ' would you like some brussels sprouts?"

If you feel the need to plate it all up and serve the full plates to the guests, then that is a great choice, but it will involve extra work and hence stress.

After eating the main, your guests may well be full, or they might need a break. Often, if we are doing lunch, then we'll break at this point and give ourselves time to get away from the table and let the meal settle before offering more food. For an evening meal, we'll probably remain sitting at the table, but if things are going well, then we might just sit around talking and drinking for an hour or even more, before offering anything else. At this stage, everyone has had their appetite satisfied, and it's all about what people want to do.

I'll go with Shaogo on this one, It's OK to do a bought, or frozen dessert. Hell, it's OK to buy in a pack of Bernard Matthews Turkey Twizzlers and bung it in the oven, if that's what you want to do. But I kind of think people kind of expect proper cooking until the dessert. After that, pretty much anything goes.

To drink or not to drink

Wine is always a tricky issue. If you know something about it, then you know what to do. But here's a secret. Unless you are very wealthy, you should never need to spend more than about £10 / $20 on a bottle of wine. Above that price, you are paying for a fancy label with the 'right' name on it, or rarity value. Above £30 / $50 you are paying for something that only wine snobs enjoy. Expensive red wines quite often taste less pleasant than £7 bottles. There are people who have trained themselves to enjoy the unusual flavours of very expensive bottles of wine. Let them enjoy their expensive pleasures and leave the cheaper, decent quality stuff for the rest of us. In general, if you look for wines from anywhere in the Southern hemisphere, read the label on the back and it says it goes with the kind of food you want to serve, and it's the right price, then it will be just fine. If it has a classy-looking label, even better. Get enough of it that you allow a bottle or so per person and all will be well. If you really want to push the boat out, then get two different styles. A light one for aperitifs and starters; a more full-bodied one for the main course.

In general it is usually best to serve the wine you have bought yourself, even if your guests bring some. On the other hand, if you know that the guest knows about wine and has brought something good. In which case, it is probably best to open it at some point during the meal.

My rule of thumb is that if in doubt about opening another bottle, always do it. My second rule of thumb is that I always ask before topping up a glass, and after someone has refused once, I put an (open) bottle down on the table and invite them to help themselves, emphasising that there is always more where that came from. Sometimes people don't want to feel pressured into drinking more than a certain amount, so as host, you have to make sure they feel comfortable about either drinking more, or not drinking at all.

Equally, Islam and some other religions ban alcohol. Some followers abide by that rule; some don't. A good host will act in a way that each guest feels comfortable about making their own choices.

As Shaogo suggests, I have a bottle of XO cognac. I've had the same bottle for about 15 years. I always offer it, but I don't think a single one of my guests has taken me up on that offer for about 10 years. Personally, I think cognac is not a necessary part of a good evening. That, however, will depend on your friends. if you know your friends appreciate a good grappa or a fine tasting single-malt whisky, or an XO brandy, then it is only polite to have some of the stuff in when they come around.

More to the point, I think, is ensuring that people eat and drink exactly how much they want to eat and drink, and not much more or less. Make sure there is water on the table along with the wine. If someone asks for a cup of tea when you were offering wine or beer, then go with the flow. Make them comfortable. It might be that other people would prefer tea or coffee.

I was going to serve mushrooms, but they ran out. Would you have liked some?

Remember, there is no polite answer to this question. Serve what you have planned to serve and let the guests worry about how much they enjoy it.

Earlier I said I'd make some suggestions for meals that make entertaining at home less stressful. Here they are

For starters there are plenty of options. We have found thet smoked salmon on blini works well. Make a platefull of blini ahead of time, and when you want to offer people something to eat, warm them under a grill. When they are hot, put a dollop of sour cream and some smoked salmon on each and then a little fresh dill. Sprinkle the serving plate with fresh ground black pepper and lemon juice and offer them around.

Another option is to make dough balls and have a number of types of olive oil for people to dip the still-warm bread into. Make some dough, maybe with herbs and and let people take as many or as few as they want . You can buy good oils infused with basil or ginger or pepper or just use simple, extra-virgin olive oil.

Another is a simple Italian antipasti. Slices of cured ham; fresh parmigiano, artichokes, olives and maybe some crackers or fresh bread. Trouble with this one is that it's so good, people want to eat too much of it.

Note that none of these requires much work or preparation. You can make them up in a few minutes and offer them round to people informally.

If you want people to sit down for the starter, then a soup is a good idea, as it can be prepared ahead of time and only needs to be heated before serving. Soups are also wonderfully warming in winter and can be made delicate and refreshing and cold in summer. Just a tip on soup: you need bread with soup. And sorry, but here I am going to go all snobby on you. It has to be good bread. not factory-made white sliced, but bread baked in an oven using yeast to make it rise.

For main courses, a roast is by far the best option, as it requires very little tending during the cooking and has a fairly wide serving window. Roast chicken is a standard in all kinds of cultures and few people will turn their noses up at a well-roasted bird.

My stand-by is a roast leg of lamb. I tend to cook it in the barbeque (a kettle-style BBQ) for a couple of hours (depending on the size), as that gives the best flavour and ends up being tender and juicy. There's usually plenty for 6 - 8 people and people who like it pink can have the meat from the middle; those who like it brown can have the more well-done portions from the edges.

Alternatives for non-meat eaters include a roasted tuna fish. A large chunk of fresh tuna can be roasted for about 30 minutes and it comes out pink and almost raw in the middle and well-cooked on the outside. It is perfectly delicious. For those who have never tried raw- or nearly-raw fish, it provides an easy way to access that style of food. Only thing with tuna is that you must get rid of all the black bits of blood and stuff before you cook it. And never, never over-cook tuna. It goes dry and horrible, compared to the soft, delicate flavour and texture of the almost-raw fish.

Ostrich is a new meat. Although it is a bird, the meat has more the texture and colour of beef, but it is almost fat-free. That means it needs careful cooking to avoid making it too dry, but it is something unusual that your guests may not have tried. And it is permitted by most religions.

A great vegetable that goes well roasted meats and other middle-eastern-style cooking is to put some sliced vegetables :carrots, onions, parsnips and suchlike onto a baking tray, sprinkle with oil and a little salt and oven roast for 30 minutes or so. Once cooked, mix them up with a bowl of cous-cous. Eaten with roast lamb and sour cream, it is a perfect match and always goes down well.

Roasting potatoes is also an ideal way to serve them. Slice them into wedges, spinkle with oil and a small amount of salt and leave them in a hot oven for 30 minutes or so. They come out soft, golden and very tasty. I have to repeat that roasting allows the oven to get on with the cooking while you, as host, talk to your guests, serve them drinks and make them feel welcome.

As noted above, small white fish and dinner parties don't really mix, as there are often bones that need to be taken out, and the fish needs really accurate timing. Roast tuna aside, another exception to this rule is a whole salmon. I often do this in a BBQ, but it is easy to do in an oven or if you have a fish poacher, as poached fish. The serving window is up to about 10 minutes on a whole salmon, and it is easy to serve portions which are almost boneless.

One of the worst things about a dinner party is when you arrive, and the hosts are slaving away in the kitchen preparing some fancy meal that takes so much time and effort, they do not have time for their guests. And often, such pressure leads to stress and tension that can be hard to break. Try really hard to avoid anything that requires a lot of last-minute attention to detail.

If not a roast, then stews and casseroles are great for informal gatherings. The great thing about a casserole is that it has a huge serving window -- you can often leave it keeping warm for a couple of hours and it still tastes delicious.

Good alternatives to casseroles include all-in-one meals such as lasagne or a fisherman's pie or shepherd's pie. Home-cooked pizze can also work, though they tend to require a fair amount of last-minute attention. The good thing about cooking pizze is that people can choose their own toppings and even make their own pizza. Only good for places with enough oven space to cook six or eight pizze simultaneoulsy. Unless people are prepared to share.

So cooking at home for guests is something to be enjoyed and embraced. Accept your guests' offers of help in the kitchen. Get them to serve themselves and join in. Don't try to pretend you are running a Michelin starred-restaurant. Have fun. That's what entertaining at home should be about: enjoying yourselves and enjoying the company of your guests. Don't let it get too stressful, or become a measure of your worth as a person. Above all, enjoy yourself and allow your guests to enjoy themselves.

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