Hello and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophe Quick Tips, Holiday edition. As you’re likely aware, Christmas is almost upon us. One month ago, I gave some tips on surviving your family Thanksgiving with minimal distressing dialogue with your family. Today, I’d like to do a similar service for Christmas parties.
However, there will be a shift in the exact advice: while avoiding awkward conversations with family is always a great goal, in my experience that’s not as big a problem with Christmas. Perhaps my family is strange (well, no, DEFINITELY my family is strange, but perhaps this specific point is unusual as well), but, if I may wax scholastic here: “The self-derived, external meaning of Christmas, over the introspective core of Thanksgiving, makes for easier activity.”
Alternatively, "It's too damn cold outside to argue." As demonstrated by the fact that there should be another mountain in the background of this shot.
In layman’s terms: Thanksgiving is about reflection, giving thanks, and introspection. It is directly about relationships and history, and therefore it invites more questions and discussion. Christmas, on the other hand, is about presents, whether the gift from a loving God of a Messiah to guide his peoples, the gift of another year of life and family, or the more material gifts under the tree. Christmas isn’t about YOU, or what you’re thankful for. It’s about the group. Also, Christmas tends to have more dramatic weather/traffic/work-related events, so it’s really easy to keep conversations light. Heck, you could spend the whole evening picking 3 or 4 TV shows you like and simply trying to pitch them to every family member who wants to talk about stuff, and that wouldn’t seem too weird.
So I don’t think you really need a guide to Christmas conversation with your family. If I’m wrong, message me, and maybe I’ll cover it next year. But for this year, I’m going to cover some simple things you can bring to a Christmas party, whether at home, the office, or a friend’s, in order to further make the season bright.
Three Wise Snacks
Now, this may surprise you, dear reader, but I have only had two types of Christmas parties: Christmas dinner with my family, and parties held by people in their mid-to-late twenties typically as a means to consume alcohol in a seasonal manner.
Here are two drinks whose entire existence is owed to the holiday season. The only person I know who drinks Peppermint Schnapps by choice is one of the sons of SATAN in Little Nicky.
I have never attended an office Christmas party, because I’ve never worked in an office building. The one time a company I worked for HELD a Christmas party, I wrote it in my schedule for the wrong day, and ended up standing outside an empty convention center for 30 minutes in the snow. As such, I can’t help you with that sort of party. The rules are foreign to me. Then again, the concept of a party between attractive twenty year olds where the goal isn’t to reveal more attractiveness or become humorously intoxicated is also moderately foreign to me, so we’ll see how many hard transitions my thirties bring. What were we talking about?
Yes, that’s right. Christmas Party Snacks. When dealing with a house-party, the key to a good snack lies in three fundamental points:
Point 1: Don’t waste party time
Do your prep before you come to the party, or before it begins if you’re the host. Here’s an example case: we had a Christmas party at the apartment I sleep in when I’m in Leavenworth. I made the main edible offering, and visually, it was pretty stunning.
If your definition of stunning includes "Looks like a giant baked potato."
That’s a pull-apart bread. And while it looks kind of complicated, its construction consists of “Slice bread in a slightly weird way. Fill gaps with stuff, top with cheese, bake.” Easy stuff, but if I had tried to make it all as the party was going, I would have been miserable. Our filling was JUST caramelized onions, the cheese, and some spices. But Caramelizing onions takes AN HOUR. Cutting the bread, shredding the cheese, these take time. So I made the onions the night before, and tossed them in the fridge. I left work 30 minutes early and did the cutting and shredding and filling, and the thing was out and ready to eat 15 minutes after the party started.
Point 2: Minimize Manual Needs
In this case, I’m not referring to manual labor or prep, as I covered that in “time”. No, I’m referring specifically to you, and your guest’s, own manos.
Or at least on you and your guests' copies of Manos.
General rule for parties: People have 2 hands. They will likely have a drink in one of them, as long as your party isn’t a place where fun goes to die. This means your average party guest will have ONE hand with which to carry and eat your food. Further, that one hand will also be the hand they tend to greet other party-goers with, or with which to join party games. This carries two important points: if your snack needs cutlery, you’re fucking up. Well, that’s a little harsh. Maybe “if your snack needs cutlery, you’re forcing your party guests to decide between moving freely around your party, or becoming stationary to eat.” Now, if your snack needs more than ONE piece of cutlery, I’m fully willing to commit to the classification of “snack fuck-up”. If it needs a knife and fork, it’s not a snack, it’s a meager meal.
The other thing to be cognizant of is that greeting/playing element. If your snack makes hands greasy, sticky, or otherwise dirty, you’re basically saying “Yeah, I’m cool with this becoming a terrible mess by the end of the night.” Back in the ancient times of KITCHEN CATASTROPHE 10, I mention one of my go-to party snacks are Buffalo Pierogi, basically polish ravioli tossed in hot sauce. I ALSO mention that I tend to sauce first, then bake them. That’s for this very reason: I don’t want guests’ hands covered in hot sauce. Or at least not until the midnight “festivities” begin.
At that point, we expect to get a lot of weird stuff on our hands, if you know what I mean.
Point 3: Don’t Be Afraid to Only Do a Little.
This is a more general point. Like I alluded to earlier, Christmas, and by extension a Christmas party, sells itself. Your guests know why they’re here: to be warm, and make merry. When we planned the Leavenworth Christmas party, I planned 3 different dishes for it. I only made one, because I realized that making the other two would take too much time. So all we had was the Pull-Apart Bread, and a Christmas Sangria.
Which, seen from above, looks like a really lazy fruit salad.
And when those ran low, we grabbed chips and salsa, and whatever liquor we had lying around, and we had fun. That party didn’t fully end until 2 in the morning. Joe and I stayed up until 4 AM. You can keep your party planning simple, because that’s not the point of the party. Christmas, unlike Halloween, isn’t about candy and women dressing as sexy (INSERT OBJECT HERE)s. It’s not like Thanksgiving, which is about the food and self reflection and self-hatred for eating all the food. Christmas is about community. It’s about coming together to make a joyful noise. The true trick to a great Christmas party is simple: take it easy, every one.
NEXT TIME: JON MIGHT SKIP IT BECAUSE HIS FAMILY IS ACTUALLY HAVING CHRISTMAS ON MONDAY. WE’LL SEE IF HE CAN MAKE SOMETHING BEFORE HE LEAVES FOR OREGON. IF NOT, SEE YOU WEDNESDAY!