Earlier this week, I co-hosted a pasta party for the girls’ high school soccer team. This is a weekly event during the soccer season, and it is a fun whirlwind of about 25 hungry, laughing girls. I shared the cooking responsibilities with another mom, but we fed the team at my house. As my co-host and I were going over our checklist, she said, “What about paper plates, plastic forks, a plastic tablecloth, and napkins?” I said, “I have got them all covered.”
I used to agonize at full-house holidays or when we entertained more than a few friends. We have lovely china from my husband’s grandparents, but it is delicate and cannot go in the dishwasher. Every time we used it, I worried about someone feeling bad if they broke it—and I hated spending time in the kitchen washing and drying china when I would rather enjoy my company. And my green conscience hated using paper plates and plastic utensils that would get tossed in the trash.
To solve the plate problem, I went to Crate and Barrel and got two dozen white dinner plates. Our everyday dishes are also white, so I can combine the sets when we have a big gathering. The white plates go with any table décor and can be dressed up if the occasion calls for it. I got a great deal on our stainless flatware a few years ago and I got plenty of it. I saved our old set to supplement when we have bigger crowds. My style is pretty simple so it all blends. (I have seen another strategy, which is to buy mismatched plates in the same color scheme at thrift stores and garage sales so you have plenty on hand for a reasonable investment.)
We do use cloth napkins regularly at our house, but I confess that I used paper napkins for the pasta party. The napkin drawer is full of a hodge-podge of colors and I need to stitch up a fresh batch of napkins. I think the most I have in any one fabric is 12. I should use several fabrics that coordinate so I have enough for big groups.
By definition, the pasta parties involve red sauce. I didn’t want to use my “nice” tablecloths, but I needed something to cover the protective pads on the table. Painter’s drop cloth to the rescue! It is just the right size, the neutral color looks like linen (well, maybe in dim lighting), and you wouldn’t believe how well it washes up. I think I got a two-pack for $10 at Home Depot.
The girls seemed to have a great time, and they ate plenty. They certainly earn their appetites, but I think they eat more when they aren’t worried about the paper plate collapsing under the weight of the food! These standard items have gotten me through a wide variety of entertaining occasions with confidence.