The kind of gathering makes a difference to the type of food and the format we serve it in. A small group of friends sees us sitting at the dining table, a slightly larger one calls for a do it yourself board and 15 or more people in a slightly formal setting invites a buffet. The key points here are fun and innovation, regardless of the format and people.
Personally, I find clustering around the dining table the most fun. We place bottles of liquor, juices and other drink accompaniments on one side and fill the other with all manner of eatables and accessories. The food can really get creative here – cold cuts, flavored oils, different types of breads, cheeses, vegetables, dips, spreads, pickles and anything else your heart desires. Think salamis, chili oil, olive oil, olives, jalapenos, gherkins, lettuce, cheddar, brie, blue, hummus, mayonnaise, garlic-chili spread, French bread, Melba toast, buns, regular bread, cucumber, carrots, spring onions and more. It’s fun because not only do we have a great selection of eats and drinks close at hand, we don’t need to flit in and out of the kitchen. This format usually suffices for drinks and dinner because there’s so much on the table.
Do it yourself boards are fun too! Quite similar to the table cluster above, you need to modify it slightly so your guests can make their own salads, sandwiches or pizzas. Very well suited for a Sunday brunch with loads of soft drinks and beer! Buffet spreads need to be planned a little in advance because of all the cooking you have to do. Once planned however, they make life simple because the food then takes care of itself in large part. Let’s not go with the ubiquitous dal and raitas please. All the ingredients are available so easily, there really isn’t any excuse not to indulge yourselves and your guests in something a little unfamiliar. It doesn’t have to be foreign – think Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Kerala. Try cooking with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, raja mircha and curry leaves. Mix it all together in an array of unfamiliar dishes from unfamiliar lands. I promise you’ll have a great time cooking and your guests will have a great time eating!