How many times have you wanted to invite family or friends over for a coffee but the thought of catering has just been too much?
You may be comfortable allowing your guests to self cater for you, by bringing in a cake/savoury treat and making the drink when they arrive. That’s a wonderful option. It’s an option I’ve had no choice but to use, on quite a few occasions over the past 12 months, as my disease has progressed.
For the purposes of this blog post, I want to focus on how to cater in a way everything looks like it’s fallen out of a “Home Beautiful” magazine and you’ve been able to do it.
Why bother you may ask? Simply because many of us in the chronic illness community love to create and enjoy special catered morning, or afternoon teas, brunches, or lunches and we don’t want our disease to take this pleasure away prematurely.
Where To Start?
I always like to start with setting the theme. You may have a rough idea of the food you want to serve but let’s park this thought for a moment.
At first we are going to focus on everything other than the food, starting with a few questions.
- How is your health at the moment? Should you even be considering having visitors? If yes, keep reading;
- How many extra people can you cope with in your home at the same time? I suggest 2 or 3 max;
- Can you physically serve the food?
- Can you make a cup of tea or coffee for others?
- Do you need a carer present, or can you ask one of your friends to be your legs during the morning/afternoon tea?
- Do you want to serve a brunch or lunch instead of a morning/afternoon tea? (I like to do this if my guest has had to travel a distance of over 30 mins to visit me)
Once you’ve decided you are feeling able to have a few guests, it time to take the next steps and set the catering scene and theme.
- With my disabilities, keeping everything simple and pacing is key. This means I lay out as much as possible the day before, or even 2 days before if I can.
- I first decide on a colour theme, deciding on which cups, plates, cake stands and serviettes I’m going to use. (I always have pretty paper serviettes on hand to match my mugs and plates….I buy these on ebay as they are 70% cheaper than in other stores and good quality)
- Mugs, cups and plates can be an eclectic mix if you don’t have a complete dining set. An eclectic look can create a pretty, whimsical and welcoming theme.
- I then decide if I’m going to use the dining table to set the scene, or take a more casual approach and set up on the kitchen bench.
- A bunch of flowers always helps to make a morning tea spread on a table, or bench, look just a little brighter. Having a vase of pretty artificial flowers always available makes this another “easy to do” task.
What’s On The Menu?
Now we can start talking about the food.
Please remember I am writing this for those of us who can barely stand, let alone spend time baking and cooking in the kitchen.
So my rules for food on the day couldn’t be more easy:
- Keep it all simple….no cooking.
- Sandwiches are permitted to make ahead of time if you’re able;
- Pre-plan your purchased menu;
- Pre- buy your culinary treats as part of your regular online grocery shop and have them delivered;
- If the food delivery doesn’t work out and you have a partner, a carer, or a neighbour who helps you out, send them to the shops with your pre-planned menu shopping list.
So what’s on my menu? I generally stick to guest favourites, plus I ensure there are a few things I can eat so I can be a part of it all. Here’s my regular sample menu:
This pre-bought food requires little preparation, aside from laying it out nicely on the table or kitchen bench.
Cover food with cling wrap and you can’t either sit back and relax, until your guests arrive, or go and get dressed for the day if you’ve chosen to pull together the menu spread first.
So Many Options
Approaching “Chronic Illness Catering” in this way, is doable for many members of the disabled community.
Your menu may have different items to mine but make sure you have minimal to no preparation, no matter what you choose. There are so many lovely food options from your local supermarket that are ready made.
A few simple, good quality, pre-made dishes will always look amazing with a well thought out catering layout, no matter if you use your kitchen bench or your dining table to display it all.
By laying out the food on pretty plates and having utensils, serviettes and empty plates available for your guests to self serve, you don’t need to worry about anything once they arrive, apart from putting the kettle on. A friend will generally offer to make the drinks too. It’s ok to say “yes thank you so much!”
Your guests can help themselves throughout the visit and they can go back for seconds and thirds…..mine always do. There can’t be a better sign all is well than your guests wanting a second cup of tea and another plate of food.
At the end of the day, your guests want to see you. They know the effort having them visit is for you.
The fact you’ve even managed to be upright for long brings them delight and happiness.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve got this and I have no doubt your “Chronic Illness Catering ” will be impressive but elegant and your guests will be completely satisfied.
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