Food is community – people connect over food. With today’s busy, over programmed lifestyles becoming the norm, it’s more important to stop and gather around a table and share a meal with family and/ or friends. For many people, this might invoke feelings of stress or panic but in reality, a “gathering” doesn’t need to be stressful – remember the old adage, ‘It’s not what’s on the table, it’s who’s at the table.’ Modern entertaining is less about fussy, fancy dinner parties and more about the act of getting together with the people we care about to have a good time (and enjoying some good food along the way).
Food is a natural part of special celebrations, obviously but more and more, sharing a meal is a way for people to gather for more casual events – from backyard barbecues to book clubs. Not every occasion has to be a “special” one. Yet still, many people shy away from entertaining because they feel it’s too much work – here’s where Jan Scott and Julie Van Rosendaal’s new book, Gatherings, comes into play.
Gatherings provides a selection of recipes along with serving, decor and presentation suggestions that will reassure any host worried about their skill level or the size of their kitchen. It’s the book you’ll be turning to before you plan any gathering – large or small – to ensure a successful event. For the inexperienced or intimidated host(ess), Gatherings makes social occasions easy and approachable. For those with a little more experience under their belts, it offers fresh ideas to help make your parties the talk of the town!
The book is organized by party-type and includes a party for every occasion! Hosting a cocktail party, shower, brunch, pie party, kid’s birthday party, backyard barbecue, pizza party, Fall harvest party, games night, big family gathering, holiday open house or even just a casual weeknight get together? There are helpful hints for making sure your gathering is fuss-free and enjoyed by all (even you!). There are even chapters on date nights, sleepover parties and book clubs to help make what might seem an ordinary event into something really special, all with very little fuss.
“Jan’s Gatherings Mainfesto: Rules for Easy Entertaining “ is a must-read for everyone who entertains, casually or more formally. She offers tips on how to choose a menu (including beverages), how to make your guests feel welcome and special, when to host a get-together, how to give your house a little party ambiance with not much effort and some invaluable hints about planning a get together.
There are helpful headnotes at the beginning of each chapter and recipe, making it feel like Jan and Julie are right there with you, helping you plan your gathering over a coffee and a plate of warm cookies. (Disclosure: I happen to know both Jan and Julie so when I read the book, I hear them speaking. But their friendly, approachable “voices” will speak to anyone, soothing the perhaps frazzled nerves of the party-planner-to-be!).
Along the way, interspersed with the recipes and stories, there are useful tips like how to make sure you get great party photos, how to set a table for dinner guests (it’s a lost art, I tell you!), how to plan for a crowd and prepare the right quantity of food and drinks, how to stock a bar for a cocktail party, how to host a potluck and how to attend a potluck and how to organize a block party. There are also hints on planning more unusual types of gatherings like a pantry or freezer party (think a cookie exchange taken to the next level in the deep dark days of winter), a snow day party, a beer tasting or even a coffee and doughnut party. When you’ve finished reading this book, you’ll be ready for almost any type of gathering!
What really strikes you as you flip through the (gorgeously photographed) recipes is how short the majority of them are. You really get the feeling that Jan and Julie are on your side, cheerleading as you plan one amazing gathering after another with simple dishes designed to wow your guests. There are no overly complicated techniques, no hard-to-find ingredients – just good food that will have people clamoring for an invite to your next gathering. I mean how good does Eggs Benny on parmesan potato waffles for brunch, maple-glazed sour cream doughnuts to serve with coffee, a classic Yorkshire pudding for a Sunday night roast dinner or a pear, avocado and Roquefort Salad for a date night sound? Right? You’ll be bookmarking recipes all throughout the book, essentially setting you up for at least a year’s worth of amazing gatherings!
Gatherings is a book to plan with, a book to thoroughly enjoy reading (it’s so much more than a cookbook) and, most importantly, a book to inspire.
Pretzel Party Sticks (makes 20 pieces)
Using only three ingredients, this party favourite goes quickly—so be sure to make plenty, especially if you have lots of little kids in attendance. Pretzel rods can usually be found in major supermarkets, cake decorating stores and in the baking section of major craft supply shops. Feel free to use any colour of chocolate you desire and get creative with your toppings by using a variety of sprinkles and small pieces of candy.
1 cup (250 mL) chocolate candy melts
1 package pretzel rods
Assorted decorations like sprinkles and small or chopped candy
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave, in 20-second intervals, or in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth and glossy.
Dip the ends of the pretzels into the pot, covering at least one-third of each stick with the melted chocolate. Decorate with sprinkles or candy pieces and lay on the parchment paper, allowing the chocolate to set at room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write - a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far. She has lived and worked as a teacher in Australia, Hong Kong, England, France and now calls Toronto home. She spends nearly every summer in France, honing her cooking and baking skills and touring different wine producing regions. As part of her job, she runs a cooking class twice a week for 7-13 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. She was one of the founding members of Food Bloggers of Canada, and is a cook, baker, traveller, photographer, writer, Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto, contributor to JamieOliver.Com and in her spare time teaches cooking and baking classes around Toronto.
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Gatherings – a giveaway!
Thanks to Whitecap Books we have one copy of Gatherings to give away to one Canadian reader!
To enter, simply leave a comment below and tell us what your favourite family-gathering meal is and why!
For a second entry, tweet the following message: Win @dinnerwithjulie + @jannisescott's #Gatherings from @whitecapbooks + @RecipeGeekMag! Details → http://ow.ly/FfGzV
Then come back to let us know you did in a second comment!
Contest closes on Wednesday December 16th, 2014. Winner will be chosen by random.org and announced via email or twitter that week.
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