Dec 132010

Every year that I put on this Open House, I feel I get a little better at delegating.

Not just delegating, but letting go of the idea of perfection. The first year that I gave my friend B– free rein of the fruit and vegetable platters for the party, I nearly cleaned off the trays and started over.

It wasn’t that what she did wasn’t beautiful – indeed, she’s very artful at arranging crudites.

She just didn’t arrange them exactly the same way I would.

For example, she arranged the fruit like a rainbow, with one color blending harmonious into the next – yellow pineapple, orange sections, green kiwi, red strawberries, purple grapes and so on (in color theory, it would be an analogous color scheme).

B--'s Fruit Tray - a rainbow of color

B--'s Fruit Tray - a rainbow of color

My arrangement is more like a triad color scheme, where I put distinctly different colors beside each other – yellow pineapple, blueberries, orange sections, purple grapes, green kiwi, red strawberries.

Does it really matter? No. The thought I hold on to nowadays is that the fruit is arranged, and I didn’t have to do it.

Can you tell I’m a little bit anal particular in the kitchen? I promise you I’m much more relaxed about it now.

I even let other people chop the fruit now, not just arrange it.

It used to be people would come to help before the party, and I couldn’t think of tasks for them to do because I insisted on perfection, or my version of it, so I couldn’t trust helpers to do things the way I’d like them done. And by the time the party started, I was tired and stressed and grumpy – and probably still not done cooking.

Admittedly, I don’t just hand a friend the brownie pan and leave them to it. I cut a sample brownie to show the size, give them mini muffin paper cups for each brownie, and point them to the right serving dish, then I leave them to it.

Maybe it helps that I have smart friends who know how to follow directions.

But we’ve trained each other over the years.

Here’s a little entertaining tip when you’re getting ready for a big party, especially if friends will help you with the plating. Get all your serving dishes clean and ready a day or two before. If you’re doing a buffet or appetizers on your dining room table or a sideboard, go ahead and prep the table – tablecloth, flowers, decorations – and arrange your dishes ahead of time. Then just put sticky notes on each plate labeling what food goes where.

Open House Table Prep

Open House Table Prep - all serving dishes laid out and labeled so helpers know where to put the food

I had 20+ dishes on the dining room table for the Open House, and because everything was labeled I was able to hand food to friends, tell them what it was, then they found the proper plate and filled it. Best idea I ever had.

Do you have trouble delegating? What’s your best entertaining tip?

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