Nervous about entertaining? Do it anyway.

Knoxville Symphony League President Edie Volk, left, with cookbook author and lifestyle consultant Ginny McCormack.

Knoxville Symphony League President Edie Volk, left, with cookbook author and lifestyle consultant Ginny McCormack.

Don’t let fear of not being perfect prevent you from entertaining in your home. Gatherings of family and friends provide real nourishment beyond that contained in the food. Hospitality makes memories.

That was the message that cookbook author and lifestyle consultant Ginny McCormack delivered to a couple of hundred women (and a few men) at the Knoxville Symphony League’s¬†spring luncheon at Cherokee Country Club.

“Recipes are important. The food needs to be good. But it’s the time that really matters,” McCormack said. “You don’t have to have a 12-course meal. It’s the gathering together of your family and friends that will be remembered.”

McCormack offered several tips for nervous hosts:

  • Start small. Organize a potluck, where everyone brings something. Or a progressive dinner, where each host is responsible for one course.
  • Have an arsenal of your favorite tried-and-true recipes that you know are crowd pleasers. Don’t experiment with new recipes on nights you are entertaining.
  • Have supplies such as cheeses, cured meats, mustards, chutneys and dried fruit on hand so you can put together a casual charcuterie platter on the spur of the moment for an impromptu drop-by guest.
  • Use cloth napkins and candles. “That sets the proper attitude,” she said.
  • Have music playing at all times. Select music that goes with the food you are serving. For instance, play zydeco if you are serving gumbo or Santana if you are having Mexican food.

Above all, just do it. “People don’t entertain because they feel too much pressure,” McCormack said. “If we wait for the perfect time, we’ll probably never do it.”

In conclusion, she smiled, “Everyone should host a dinner party every once in a while.”

Each tablescape at the Symphony League luncheon was created by a different designer. They were beautiful. This one was by League member Janet Bower. It was my favorite.

Each tablescape at the Symphony League luncheon was created by a different designer. They were beautiful. This one was by League member Janet Bower. It was my favorite.

It had some cute frogs peeping out from around the china.

It had some cute frogs peeping out from around the china.

Great job, Janet!

Great job, Janet!

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz performed three dazzling pieces. He was accompanied on piano by Dr. Kevin Class.

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz performed three dazzling pieces. He was accompanied on piano by Dr. Kevin Class.

Jacomo Rafael Bairos is this week's guest conductor for the Knoxville Symphony performances this week. He is in the running to be the KSO's next music director.

Jacomo Rafael Bairos is guest conductor for the Knoxville Symphony performances this week. He is in the running to be the KSO’s next music director.

Bairos told the League gathering that a symphony orchestra “can be a gravitational force, drawing to itself talent in many forms.”

From left, Betsey Bush, Suzanne Carriere and Jody Rash.

From left, Betsey Bush, Suzanne Carriere and Jody Rash.

Betsey's brooch was actually a little vase containing live pansies! "Those look so real!" I said. "They are!" Betsey replied.

Betsey’s brooch was actually a little vase containing live pansies! “Those look so real!” I said. “They are!” Betsey replied.

Designer Todd Richesin put together this snazzy table.

Designer Todd Richesin put together this snazzy table.

Here's Todd, at right, with Chris McKenry.

Here’s Todd, at right, with Chris McKenry.

From left, Susan Seymour, Bette Bryan and Sharon Laing.

From left, Susan Seymour, Bette Bryan and Sharon Laing.

Jackie Wilson, left, with Sandra Butler.

Jackie Wilson, left, with Sandra Butler.

My place setting was by Rex Bradford Jones.

My place setting was by Rex Bradford Jones.

This salad, containing walnuts, apples, dried cranberries and blue cheese, was fantastic.

This salad, containing walnuts, apples, dried cranberries and blue cheese, was fantastic.

Susan Farris, left, with Judy Henry.

Susan Farris, left, with Judy Henry.

Talk about Southern! Fried green tomatoes and cheese grits complemented the chicken and asparagus.

Talk about Southern! Fried green tomatoes and cheese grits complemented the fried chicken and asparagus.

Of course, I pulled my secret weapon out of my purse.

Of course, I pulled my tiny secret weapon out of my purse.

Jacomo ordered a vegetarian plate and I thought it looked delicious. That's not steak, but a grilled portobello mushroom. He must have liked it because he asked for a second serving!

Jacomo ordered a vegetarian plate and I thought it looked delicious. That’s not steak, but a grilled portobello mushroom.

Maxine Towns, left, and Harriet Hodge.

Maxine Towns, left, and Harriet Hodge.

The KSO's communications director, Rachel Dellinger, doing her job!

The KSO’s communications director, Rachel Dellinger, doing her job!

Southern bread pudding with Jack Daniel's sauce. Wow.

Southern bread pudding with Jack Daniel’s sauce. Wow.

Rose Moseley, left, with Julia Shiflett.

Rose Moseley, left, with Julia Shiflett.

From left, KSO Executive Director Rachel Ford, board member Betsey Bush and Jacomo Bairos.

From left, KSO Executive Director Rachel Ford, board member Betsey Bush and Jacomo Bairos.

Here’s a 15-second sampling of Gabriel Lefkowitz’s performance.

Do you have any tips for hosting a dinner party even if you are nervous about it?

 

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8 Responses to Nervous about entertaining? Do it anyway.

  1. Melinda Meador, on March 18th, 2016 at 11:53 am said:

    Beautiful post for spring, Cynthia!

    Here are my tips:
    Any blunders will be forgotten if you finish with a knockout dessert!
    And, as Julia always said, never apologize. Sail on!

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on March 18th, 2016 at 12:02 pm said:

    I agree with you, Melinda. People love to be entertained in other folks’ homes. They are not judging you or expecting a dinner they would have in a five-star restaurant. It’s a whole different experience. And, as the author said, it’s the warmth of the hospitality that matters. Another tip: always reciprocate. It’s surprising how many people don’t.

  3. Rusha Sams, on March 18th, 2016 at 2:09 pm said:

    What gorgeous tables! And oh, those fried green tomatoes! Thanks, Cynthia, for sharing this event and a message that I need to hear over and over: Just entertain and quit worrying! We have put off having folks over since I can’t remember when. I just need to dust off the dishes and get with it!!!

  4. Gay Lyons, on March 18th, 2016 at 2:24 pm said:

    I violate her second tip ALL the time. I love experimenting with guests. This luncheon looks absolutely beautiful. Having different table designers is a great idea. Love Betsey’s pansy!

  5. Cynthia Moxley, on March 18th, 2016 at 3:45 pm said:

    Rusha: Thanks. I am going to check in with you in a little while and see if you have done that!

    Gay: I do, too. But maybe if you are nervous about entertaining, you would be more comfortable with a tried and true recipe.

  6. Diana Morgan, on March 18th, 2016 at 6:00 pm said:

    Serve wine. Lots and lots of wine.

  7. Lillian Mashburn, on March 19th, 2016 at 1:11 pm said:

    Glad to see someone carries their own little Tabasco bottle.

  8. Monique Anderson, on March 21st, 2016 at 2:57 pm said:

    I agree with the tip to serve lots of wine!!!

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