Playing Host

5 Nov

My mom is a wonderful hostess. My sister and I always had the best birthday parties – lovely homemade food and creative, fun games.  The games seemed to get more creative and fun as we grew older and I think I celebrated my birthday well into my teens. The food each year was so well thought of too– some classics that we loved remained the same each year and other new ones were introduced to surprise us and our friends. Her dinner parties for adults were also pretty awesome. Living far away, I haven’t been witness to any in recent times but she keeps me posted over the phone and even now her menus are elaborate, the décor, lighting , the cutlery -the prep she puts in to plan everything surprises me . She does have house help but that said her enthusiasm , energy and execution are pretty much spot on. My parents often hosted dinner parties on Saturday nights when I was growing up and I remember the extensive shopping for groceries, prep and the actual event. The nicest part of the whole thing used to be my parents, sister and I cleaning up after the party, my mom washing the exquisite cutlery by hand, while dad dried everything and we kids went around the living room and kitchen picking up scraps and trash. We would talk about the evening; discuss the badly behaved kids if any, discuss what the women wore and other things before sometimes sitting down for some additional dessert well past midnight. We would then have a lovely set of leftover options for Sunday meals.

These dinner parties and the work involved however, don’t come close the huge task of hosting the people who stay at our place. We had a steady stream of relatives and friends staying with us for a few days at a time as I grew up. Maybe it was because of dad’s transferrable job, but as soon as our cartons were unpacked in a new city, the hordes of guests would start to arrive. Mom took it all in her stride though and really went out of her way to ensure their comfort. Amazing meals, immaculate guest rooms , a steady stream of snacks, packed food when the guests went out sight-seeing, planning excursions and shopping trips with visiting ladies  – all this she did with balancing a full time job , two kids and a husband. I believe she still goes over the top when my sister’s friends have sleepovers at our place and her friend’s love coming home. My mom thrives on playing host and seems to enjoy the whole thing immensely, despite the work it involves.

So growing up with this, I just know no different and now that I have my own little family unit, I strive to be a great host. But I have miles to go before I perfect the whole thing. We have had quite a few distant family members visit us in NYC in the last one year. Our recent guests stayed with us about a week last month. My mom gets super excited when I tell her we have family visiting and she starts her trans -Atlantic planning for me and gives me loads of ideas. They are merely ideas but I of course, want to execute them all perfectly. Undoubtedly, It is a lot of work . For one, the cooking three continuous meals is hard to pull off for me. Next , the sight-seeing leaves me exhausted and resentful. And on top of that, if it is the husbadoo’s distant family who is visiting, as was the case recently, I am so stressed about impressing them that it overwhelms me.

The other hard thing in all this for me, is the fact that the husbadoo wants me to do bare minimum- not kill myself making different breakfasts each morning, not worry about packed lunches on all day site seeing trips and to order in Indian food when we return really late from site seeing with them on weekends. I don’t agree with any on this – offering just cereal for breakfast to middle aged Indian family members is unacceptable in my book, packed food when they are out sight-seeing on a weekday without us is a must as I don’t want if I don’t want them spending their hard earned money on food on the go, and us ordering overpriced NYC Indian take out that I cook better myself is not an option .

So we argue in hushed tones behind closed doors. He tells me not to kill myself and that impressions don’t matter anymore, that we are married now and have a child and who cares what people think. He reminds me of certain relatives of his who I slogged over hosting over the last few years but who continue to hate and judge me for illogical reasons. I argue that I am not asking for his opinion in any of this – I am simply going to do what I want to do and that all he has to do is help with the toddler and stay out of my way.  So we go on and on each time we have visitors! I don’t see either of us backing down from our stand anytime soon and I am sure we will have plenty of more visitors through our life and plenty of more arguments about this.

P.S. This last set of visitors we had were fairly easy to take care of and I successfully pulled off all the things that I had planned during their visit. I spent a few days feeling just good about their visit after their left and some weird sense of achievement.


12 Responses to “Playing Host”

  1. Zarine Mohideen November 5, 2014 at 6:58 am #

    Siigh.. I feel the same way! Every time we host a party in our house I have to go the whole nine yards thinking about the menu, etc. Husband just says, “Oh you make one dish, we will get the rest from outside”, and I’m like no way!

    I wonder what I will do with kids in the house. And I don’t think I’ve ever cooked three whole meals in the same day!

    • popgoesthebiscuit November 6, 2014 at 1:27 am #

      3 meals in a day is hard but doable with a lot of pre prep and planning. I did it recently for almost a full week and didnt know I had it in me till I actually did it.

  2. Dil On The Rocks November 5, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    It seems natural that you want to be and do like your mother. Let it be your personal choice and what you want to do. As long we don’t expect guests to acknowledge the care you are providing, it will be good. Of course, me is someone who does the latest except if its her favorite ppl. 🙂

    • popgoesthebiscuit November 6, 2014 at 1:30 am #

      The whole acknowledging part I think I do need..from elders and my husband’s side for some weird reason. Don’t know why but I am hell bent on impressing them and being super working woman and housekeeper even if they could probably care less..Ugh..undoubtedly my own insecurities at play…hopefully I get more secure and grow out of this..

  3. Pepper November 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    *Same pinch*. My parents hosted dinners very frequently while I was growing up. But most were hosted for very close family friends and it was such a frequent do that the dinners were not elaborate or formal. The decor was never paid much attention to. The food too was quite informal (2-3 things.. not like 4 course meals). So I never picked up the hosting skills from my mum..

    Now that we are all grown up and hosting people at our own place, I LOVE getting into the role of a good host. Honestly, I am very influenced by the bloggers around me. When I see how much thought can be put into ambiance, the menu planning and other finer details, I love jumping into the preps and going all the way.

    My problem is exactly the same. Mint thinks all of that is unnecessary and friends and relatives who visit should be treated in a lot more casual way. He’s okay even with offering nothing else but dal and roti to friends who we’ve invited.

    So while I am killing myself thinking of appropriate starters to offer with drinks and thinking of placing the scented candles at the right places, he keeps yelling at me saying I am over doing it. He helps me out albeit grudgingly and that makes me deny all his help..I don’t see either of us changing the way we think either..

    • popgoesthebiscuit November 6, 2014 at 1:37 am #

      Haha..looks like a lot of men think this way…good for us that we are with a progressive set of guys. But sometimes I wish mine would stay out of the way and let me do my thing. Logical reasoning on why I want to do stuff is really not a good idea when I am stressed.

  4. smdeea11 November 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    I guess its the same everywhere. I mean, we, men and women.
    Even I try to have a personal touch regarding everything that food, decor, fun etc. But my husband asks me to not tire myself. Food can be ordered, will visit a theatre for fun and other alternatives.

  5. princessbutter November 6, 2014 at 2:01 am #

    You know what? My mom does a lot and it’s like walking on eggshells around her when we have some guests coming over. The woman is positively scary then. She insists on making hot roti or puri n says she will eat later. I hate that! It makes me feel like it’s a society standard that the woman will serve. I am over thinking it. Dad will tell her to sit down n we will eat after all Rotis re done and she will flip out at him. For the Diwali brunch at my friend’s place, she was makin Misal. And she was going thoda nuts ki should I do this or that or make dahi bhat. She was enthu but I told her to calm down and it was just us friends getting together. She said it’s different when hosting. But she always hosts! And no other boys take stress or offer any help. They just reached and promptly turned on laptop to finish Man Utd match. Ugghhhh.

    • popgoesthebiscuit November 6, 2014 at 9:32 am #

      laughing about your mom flipping out..I do that too.But I do try to get the cooking done beforehand and eat with the guests.My peeve is having guests , especially the other girl’s hovering around the kitchen saying let me help. I somehow find that super irritating. But i end up doing it too when I am visiting someone..hypocrite ! Oh and the women eating after the men….the husbadoo has some relatives who we ended up visiting often after we were married ..middle aged couple living in the U.S for years. Everytime though it was always men eating first… I am starving my ass off expecting a good home cooked meal and being told to wait with the other much older aunties. The husbadoo hated it and tried to pull me into eating with the uncles and him but I just hated creating a scene and used to push him away.I just hated that the women folk had to hang around and wait despite food being ready..

  6. princessbutter November 6, 2014 at 2:02 am #

    Judging from all the comment here, I think I am a boy.

  7. Little Fingers November 10, 2014 at 5:35 am #

    I have no idea how our parents played perfect hostess , here I don’t get lot of visitors mostly friends. i am pretty much like you, wanted to make it perfect. For me even I have to clean and organize everything . It takes a toll on me after each such parties. I wish I learned how to arrange these parties a bit relaxed.

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