We know the story: the evening air was balmy and you’d had a beer or two. A rush of blood to the head made you invite far too many people round for a barbie next weekend. Fear not – hostess with the mostest Leisha Jones is here to help.
When it comes to hosting, I’m a bit of a control freak – a fastidious planner and an over-organiser. That may not sound very rock ’n’ roll, but trust me, I know how to party. Like a smooth restaurant service, hosting a successful backyard bash is all about the prep. You want to start planning and prepping your menu as early as possible, so that on the day all you will have to do is put on some music, pour yourself a stiff one and pace around anxiously waiting for your guests to arrive.
The week before your soiree, take some time to make a list of the dishes you’ll serve and all the elements that need to be prepared. Figure out what you can do a week in advance, a few days before, and what needs to be done on the day. Marinades, dressings and pickles can be made a week in advance. You can toast nuts for garnish and prep your meat and vegetables a couple of days out; and pick herbs and assemble salads (without the dressing) the night before.
No job is too small. Even if all you have to do is unwrap a few trays of snarlers and toss together a salad, I suggest you unsheathe your sausages the night before and put them in a barbecue-friendly tray so they are ready to go. Get out everything you need for serving – platters, bowls, tongs, napkins – and lay it out on the bench. It may seem trivial, but leave it till the morning and next thing you know your guests will be arriving, you’ll be on a step-ladder trying to find a salad bowl while yielding questions about what you are doing for New Year’s.
On the morning of your bash, finish off your final prep then give your kitchen a once-over. Make sure your rubbish bins are empty, benches are clear and your dishwasher is unstacked. If someone opens the dishwasher and finds it full of clean dishes, one of two things will happen: they will either quickly close it, hope nobody saw and silently recede into the crowd to avoid unstacking it; or they will ask you where everything goes one by one until you say, “Don’t worry, I’ll do it”. An empty dishwasher means they’ll have no excuses.
People really are like sheep and need to be herded from the front door to the backyard in an efficient and orderly manner. Consider the layout of your house as a little party maze – the less people have to think about how to navigate it, the better. You want to provide them with prompts so they don’t bottleneck in the hallway and kitchen, keep them moving by setting up the snacks and drink station outside and enticing them to lounge on the lawn by tossing down a couple of rugs and some pillows.
A great host anticipates their guests’ needs, and never underestimates how many annoying and seemingly endless those needs will be. People will definitely ask where the glasses are; where they can put their beers; if you have a bottle opener; and if you have any more bog roll. Get people off your case by laying things out where they can see them: cutlery in jars, next to plates and napkins; glasses out on the bench; buckets of ice out for cooling beers; and ass wipe stacked to the bathroom ceiling for all the people that will inevitably give your can a pounding. Finally, put your recycling and rubbish bins in plain sight so people are encouraged to use them. You want to passive-aggressively say: “Enjoy the party, but clean up after yourselves as you go, you filthy swine.”
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This pink pickle can be made a week or more in advance and has the ability to make any dish look joyful and professional. Use it on all kinds of festive foods such as tacos, hot dogs and nachos; as a garnish on barbecue meats or a side of salmon; or scattered over a salad.
- 2 red onions, very finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- juice of 2 lemons
Place the sliced onion in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for one minute or so, then drain the water off in a sieve.
Put the onion back in a bowl with the salt, sugar and lemon juice. Mix and refrigerate until required.
For more ingenious summer entertaining tips, check out the rest of the Backyard Bash 101 series
The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.