Feasting 101: Introduction

I enjoy feeding people. Sometimes I like to see how many people I can feed at once and how many dishes I can provide. This is not the sort of thing I expect most people want to do – it gets a little crazy and takes a LOT of work.

But even if you don’t want to make food to feed a hundred people, the same general principles apply whether you’re exploring a new cuisine or simply serving family favorites on a somewhat larger scale than usual.

I figured  I would write up a “backstory” post while I’m taking a breather in the midst of our current feast plans. One of my friends that I visited recently said she was inspired to see how it’s possible to cook several things at the same time – but there’s definitely a knack to it, so I figured I’d see if I could break it all down into an outline.

Here are my steps in a series of questions – I have more to say about how I answer the questions, but this is the basic overview. I’ll expand on the different sections separately in new posts, but later since I’ve got work to do now. 🙂

Step 1: Goals & Limits

  • Who are you serving?
  • What is your budget?
  • How much time do you have?
  • What kind of tools/space do you have to work with?
  • Do you have helpers?

Hopefully this is the easy part! But it’s still worth going through before you get into specifics or get too ambitions.

Step 2: Event Planning

  • Do you have a theme or a specific cuisine in mind?
  • Will your guests be coming hungry or just want something light?
  • How do you plan to serve the meal?
  • How important is appearance to you?
  • Where are you serving it? Will there be temperature/spoilage concerns?

The answers to these questions will largely determine the scale of the event and the amount of effort you put in. But they also are the fun, creative part – at least for me. 🙂

Step 3:  Picking a Menu

  • Do you want to use favorite recipes, or try something new?
  • Will people be bringing anything?
  • How formal will the meal be?
  • Do you want to include seasonal food?
  • How do the recipes balance?
  • What kind of dessert/drinks would fit?
Ok, I lied above. This first question is where you figure out how much work you’ll be doing. But you can alleviate some of that work in how you answer the other questions. And I still think it’s a very large part of the fun.

Step 4: Shopping

  • Are your recipes scaled correctly for the meal?
  • How much of the meal is “pantry cooking”?
  • Which matters more to you: cost or time?
  • How much does authenticity matter to you?
For me, this is probably the least fun part – but if you get really organized before you leave the house, you can make it take less time and save a lot of money.  I’ve figured out a technique that helps quite a bit, though it might not work for everyone.

Note: I’m leaving out the step of gathering all the ingredients and arranging them on the table before any work is done. It annoys my family sometimes, but allows this blog to exist in the format I’ve created it.

Step 5: Cooking

  • Are you trying any new techniques?
  • What can be prepared ahead? What has to be prepared ahead?
  • What prep work is required for the recipes?
  • Can some things cook/bake at the same time?
  • Will anything need to be chilled/heated for serving?
  • What steps can you give to helpers?
Getting yourself organized before you start cooking will lessen the explosions in the kitchen, physical and emotional. If you can, recruiting a cleaning crew is also a good idea here. Now ready, set, go!

Step 6: Serving

  • Do you want to transfer things to bowls/platters?
  • Do you have hot pads/covers available?
  • Do you have serving implements ready?
  • Can the dishes be passed, or will someone need to serve them?

Ok, these are mostly yes/no questions. So you just need to make sure they happen and you’re ready to dig in!

Turkey Leg

One Comment Add yours

  1. Mark Johnson says:

    Those are the same questions we ask in a professional setting, except we have the benefit of being equipped to handle it.

    At home if I am going to feed a lot of people I stick to things on the grill like ribs, brisket, pork shoulder or other slow cooked meats. All of the side dishes are cold except for a few quick-cooking things on the grill.

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