Life is getting closer to normal, but not cruising yet. Entertaining at home is higher on your To Do list for the summer. What might this look like?
The Washington Post ran a great article, “How to Host a Get Together as Safely – and Graciously As Possible.” (1) It’s definitely worth reading. They bring up a brilliant point: “It’s important in pandemic times not to think about ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ – It’s all about levels of risk.”
I’m sharing some thoughts how I would go about it. You need to reach your own decisions, since you and your guests are assuming the risk.
We’ve all been using six feet (2 meters) as the standard. The World Health Organization and the UK government are looking at three feet (1 meter) as a revision. (2) The chart connected to this link is pretty cool too.
Let’s assume you are inviting people over to your home. Common sense should dictate if you have tested positive for the virus, you shouldn’t come over. Ditto if you are feeling unwell, coughing or sneezing. Stay home. Personally, I think taking your temperature at home makes sense. If your temperature is high, stay home. Obviously you want everyone wearing a mask upon arrival. Six foot spacing at the front door if everyone arrives at once. Restaurants around us are doing the same for outdoor dining, the first step towards normal dining. Have some extra brand new masks on hand for forgetful friends. Hand sanitizer too. When I went to Church recently, there were plenty of dispensers around.
Family members in the same household aren’t social distancing. They “know” if they are OK or not. When restaurants opened for outside dining and two couples who know each other go out for dinner, by definition they are sitting close beside one another. They have tacitly agreed the other is safe.
Generally speaking, we know people “in silos.” There’s the gang from work, your close friends, your fellow volunteers at the community group, etc. When entertaining, stick to one silo at a time. There aren’t unfamiliar faces, everyone is reasonably comfortable with everyone else.
How We Will Likely Entertain
Obviously, outdoors is preferable. Pick a day with good weather expected. Have a rain date. The familiar format of food passed at the table or setup buffet style needs some tweaking. You can’t eliminate risk, but you can reduce it. If we were to entertain a dozen people, I think we would setup six card tables, each with a tablecloth and pair of chairs. They would be at least six feet apart. Here’s the rationale. If people are fearful about sitting together, they can be at a distance yet still feel involved. If two couples say “Come eat with us,” they can pull their tables together. Two becomes four, but not sharing one table.
People won’t be lining up for mixed drinks. It will be bottled water and wine. Chilled in open, iced tubs. Ideally these are in the shade.
How Will We Feed Them?
There are two directions I can see.
- The tapas route. The concept of small plates seems invented for this scenario. We are talking Manchego cheese, Iberian ham, Marcona almonds and olives. Maybe grilled shrimp, calamari and French fries. All these dishes can be set out on each table. The hot items are brought around when ready. Each table has flatware, plates, napkins, glasses. They each have a bottle of wine and another of sparking water.
- The plated dinner. You run your kitchen with restaurant precautions. You wear gloves and a mask. You prepare the food, plate in the kitchen and deliver prepared plates to diners. It’s like eating in a restaurant.
We were invited to our neighbor’s house the Sunday before last. It was our first venture out for a meal. They had a round, low cocktail table in their living room. Four seats, like points on a compass. There was about 4-5 feet between adjacent people. The food was on a Lazy Susan! Each item was in its own dish. There was a glass filled with toothpicks. You speared the items you wanted, transferring them to your plate. You spun the turntable when you wanted more.
Assuming your friends are healthy, these formats seem to mitigate risk. It also shows your guests you are taking precautions, while leaving them the option to “double up” with others. I’m assuming these formats are pretty close to what restaurants will roll out as they get back into business.
Cover photo: Queen Victoria breakfast setting, courtesy Bryce Sanders