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Dinner is the word used for the main meal of the day.  If the main meal is in the middle of the day, you have breakfast, dinner and supper.  On the other hand, if the main meal is in the evening, you will have breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We have discussed formal dinners in another chapter, so this chapter will speak more to the meal itself and other ways to serve dinner.

Whenever dinner is eaten be it at noon or in the evening, it is an excellent time for the family to get together and share the events of the day.  The menu at dinner is important and a attractively served, balanced meal is essential.  However, it is the fellowship that may be even more important.

You as the host or hostess for the family meal are responsible for setting the atmosphere and selecting the menu.  It may sound strange, but the family meal needs a menu to be successful.  Though you will not serve individual courses, it is important to simulate those courses to some degree.  For example, though it could be argued that a hamburger is balanced as it has salad, meat, and bread your appetite may not be as satisfied as if those were separate. Experiment with serving a salad in a separate bowl and the entrée and vegetables served in a plate. If you start the meal with a small cup of soup, you will be amazed at how filling it can be and nourishing.   In this family style service, the salad will be on the left side of the dinner plate.  Then always follow the meal with some sort of dessert.  You may find that your family is more satisfied and actually consumes less during the day if you have regular meals.  Our hectic schedules have caused us to learn to live on snacks rather than balance meals.  

Family meals don’t have to be complex, time consuming or expensive but they do need to be planned and balanced.  Our Lady Personified site will be providing suggested menus that can be prepared ahead of time and tips for the family meals.  Visit the home economics section.

This can be the most practical way to host a dinner party.  It can be made to work in almost any size home and it gives you the opportunity to use your imagination and ingenuity to improvise.  Buffet dinners can be more casual and you can use festive colors in an exciting way.  However, it can also be very formal and you can use good linens, china, sterling and crystal. 

Generally, a buffet dinner will require you to do some furniture rearranging to accommodate your guests.  You can put up card tables and folding chairs or you can rent table, chairs and even linens.  This can be helpful as the rental companies can help you arrange your available space to its maximum and provide seating that will work best. 

A buffet simply means that the food is set out for your guests to help themselves.  It doesn’t have to mean that they will be forced to balance their plate and drink on their knees.  Once they get their food they can be seated at a table to eat. 

Set up your buffet in the most convenient location and make sure that there is adequate room for guests to move around.  It is helpful if there is a clear path to the kitchen from the table so that food can be replenished as necessary.

You can prepare the food yourself or you can arrange for a caterer.  If you use a caterer, they can bring the food and serving pieces and also carry everything away after the party.  Another bonus is that they know exactly how much food to prepare and will always have enough. 

If you choose to have a casual buffet be sure that the plates are adequate to carry the food safely to the table.  Paper plates have their place at a picnic but are not appropriate for a buffet dinner.  There are many attractive and substantial plastic plates that can be purchased in almost any color.  Some are so durable that they can be washed and used again.

We recommend that you put the desserts on a separate table.  In this way, guests can get their desserts when they are ready and not collide with those who may be returning to the main table for seconds! 

You can put the utensils on the buffet table for guests to pick up as they get their food or you can have the table set with the utensils.  This is much nicer as they don’t need to balance as much and it looks much better planned. Be sure and have salt and pepper, butter and sugar and lemons at each table.  Once the guest is seated, he or she should not have to get up except for another round or for dessert.

Like the utensils, the drinks can be a table for the guest to select or they can be at their place at the table.  It will be important to keep hot things hot and cold things cold.  There are chafing dishes and hot plates that can be used for the hot items.  Once again, a caterer has all of the necessary equipment to accomplish this task and it won’t be necessary to store it between parties.

A good coffee maker is an essential piece of equipment.  The single serve coffee makers are just dandy for their purpose, but they simply don’t replace a good, large quantity coffee maker for a party.  We’ve discussed how to make good coffee in an earlier chapter, but we will repeat the details here.

Start with a clean coffee pot.  Use two level tablespoons of FRESH coffee per ¾ cup of cold water.  Always brew the full capacity of your coffee maker.