Hosting is common in Israel, whether it be young couples, seminary girls, or bochurim, most newcomers are thrown into hosting as soon as they arrive. How is a girl supposed to know the ins and outs of hosting? Here are some ideas to keep in mind next time you find yourself the entertainer.
The classic stereotypical bochur will call Thursday night asking to eat over with six friends. Even though this is the typical bochur story, last-minute guests can happen to anyone. If it’s easy for you to do it, great. But remember that it’s OK to say no. Setting boundaries for yourself will make the whole process more enjoyable. In that same vein, some women enjoy entertaining and some do not. If you are part of the latter group, don’t feel pressured to be constantly hosting. Constantly doing something that is hard/stressful/overwhelming for you will just make you resentful.
Everyone and their mother can whip up Shabbos in an hour if really needed but most weeks, that’s really not necessary. Be prepared, invite early, make a menu, and start cooking with time to spare. Organization makes the difference between a stressful Erev Shabbos and a peaceful one.
Cook according to your guests’ preferences
If your guest has allergies, don’t be afraid to ask which foods he can or cannot eat. Be careful of the ingredients that you use. You don’t want to be responsible for a Friday night hospital run. In addition, try to cook to the preferences of your guests. If you remember that your brother in law hates tomatoes, try to avoid them when possible. The little details that you remember and notice will make the world of a difference to your guests.
This is not always the case, but usually, Bochurim will want heavier, heimish foods whereas married couples and seminary girls will appreciate a different, healthier, or interesting twist. Don’t waste your fancy pistachio infused salmon on people who will not appreciate it! The basics for bochurim usually include eggs, liver, cholent, gefilte fish, chicken soup, chicken, or meat. The rest are fillers.
If you are plating an appetizer or other course, ask people what they like. Some people will not touch the entire plate of food if there’s fish on it. Do the courtesy and ask before plating so you can avoid an uncomfortable situation.
No one likes a long, dragging meal. Keep your meal going at a good pace using cues from your guests. When everyone is finished eating and there’s an awkward silence, use that time to clear and serve. Guests can linger after bentching if they really want to, but people are usually tired and want to go home. Be mindful if a guest comes with kids- keep the meal shorter if the kids are misbehaving and tired. The average mealtime should be between 2-3 hours.
Seating is the most important part of a meal. You can make the best foods with the best conversation but if the seating is bad, the meal will be unsuccessful. Try to make people as comfortable as possible: seat husbands and wives together, friends together, avoid putting a man across from a woman and don’t ever have a bochur sit next to a woman, even if it’s the hostess. If you are having more than one couple together, consider sitting at the opposite end of your husband so that the men and women are not sitting interspersed.
Be polite, mindful, and kind- do your best to notice what’s going on at your table. If someone is missing silverware, doesn’t have a cup, or is getting visually uncomfortable from a particular conversation, do the best you can to rectify the situation.
Hosting is not always fun but try your best to enjoy the fruits of your efforts! You’ve planned, shopped, cooked, cleaned, served, cleared, and cleaned up. Enjoy the parts that are fun, don’t work too hard, ask for help, and rest up until next week!