The word “hospitable” has a pleasant ring to the ear. According to the dictionary, this adjective is denned as “receiving and entertaining guests generously and kindly.” Today, the adverb “easily” should be added to that definition, as the whole trend in entertaining is toward simplicity. Every hostess likes to receive the compliments, “You always seem to have such a good time at your own parties,” and, “You do everything so easily.” Of course, this does not mean that she has not spent plenty of time in planning and preparing for a party, but it does indicate that the apparently unharried hostess is not plagued with too many last minute details that take her away from her guests.

With the scarcity of regular household help, the completely formal party is practically out of date. Occasionally, we may get out the best linen and china, employ extra service, and ask a few guests to a small dinner or luncheon. For holiday meals, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, we will have place settings at the table for everyone, though we seldom attempt to serve many courses; and at children’s parties, table service is more practical and convenient. However, it is a common practice today when we ask friends to have a meal with us to choose the buffet service, whether the meal is served on the terrace, on the lawn around the grill or barbecue, or in the house. A noticeable trend that makes for greater sociability and makes fewer demands on the hostess is entertaining with cooperative supper parties. For these, the host and hostess will supply the before-dinner drinks and sometimes the main meat item, while other members of the group will bring, according to a preconceived plan, other dishes that will together form the basis of a buffet meal. This same plan, for either the buffet or a sit-down meal, may be enlarged for a club or church luncheon or supper.

When we entertain in the afternoon, we may ask our guests to drop in for cocktails or for tea or sherry. Sometimes, we elaborate the usual cocktail party and serve, buffet style, a hot dish or two as well as the usual appetizers. Another simple method of entertaining that is increasingly popular is to ask guests to come in for dessert and coffee before an afternoon or evening of bridge, canasta or television. Or, we may serve tea or cocktails at the end of the afternoon, or snacks or drinks toward the end of the evening. The snack party, with grape juice, cola and other soft drinks, is particularly popular with the teen-agers.

There are a few simple rules that apply to planning and executing a party of any type. The first is to plan well in advance, and to attempt only what can be carried out successfully and with apparent ease. Menus and service should be chosen with this idea in mind, so that time which should be spent with the guests is not occupied by long periods in the kitchen. For example, ham may be prepared the day previous; casserole dishes may be prepared in the morning, as may many desserts; salad dressings may be mixed and left chilling in the refrigerator; relishes (such as radishes, carrot strips and others) may be placed in a covered container in the refrigerator, where they will benefit by crisping; certain icebox desserts must be made ahead of time. Coffee can be made ahead of time and kept to the proper temperature in an automatic electric percolator. In planning your menus, study your recipes and select those for which many ingredients or the whole recipe may be prepared in advance.

With such pre-preparation, the host and hostess will be ready to receive their guests when they arrive. They will be in the mood for a good time themselves and this is one of the insurances of a successful party. Menus presented in each section of this book are designed with these points in mind. Some dishes appear in more than one type of menu, but each recipe, of course, is given only once. It can be located through the index.

As the number of guests at any party is so variable, the recipes for Buffet Suppers and Luncheons have been designed to provide twelve servings. A unit of six has been used in the Small Dinner Parties and Luncheons. Any of these recipes can be doubled or tripled satisfactorily according to the number of guests you are planning to entertain. The larger recipes can, of course, be halved. In the Church and Club Suppers and Luncheons section, most of the recipes supply fifty servings, while a few are designed for twenty-five. As at least half of the guests will enjoy second servings, an allowance should be made for this. Six servings will provide generously for four, and twelve servings will supply eight persons liberally.

When you plan a party, of course you make a list of your expected guests, put your menu down on paper and estimate the food that you will need to purchase, after checking the staples on the pantry shelf. After the party these lists should not go in the wastebasket, but should be preserved for future use. You can add notes in regard to whether you provided too generously, or not liberally enough. And the next time you have a party, you will find it easier to plan your menu and to execute it. The following form is suggested for your permanent records:

Type of Party
Guest Names & Number
Source and Size
Market Order & Cost