Alongside the special moments with loved ones, the good food, and the great memories, the festive season can sometimes be a bit… overwhelming. While having people around for a few days can be wonderful, there can come a point when enough is too much, and being a gracious host comes back to bite you.
For good reason, it seems, there are a number of proverbs in multiple cultures and languages around the world that express the same sentiment: a fish and a house guest can start to smell after three days. While we’re not interpreting it literally, it invokes a familiar sense of festive stress that can arise from guests who overstay their welcome or the persistent presence of family staying for a long time in your home, which can make the holidays feel a little like hard work.
South Africa’s own celebrated salad queen, Chantal Lascaris, is the first to admit she can sometimes be a bit of a messy cook, prone to dirtying a few dishes and making a mark or two in the kitchen. But her intention with each of her recipe books (the result of five years in the culinary spotlight and decades of experimentation before that) is to empower people to serve memorable meals that are healthy, wholesome, and easy to prepare, especially when there are guests or family members that linger a little longer than expected.
“I’m continually inspired by the Spanish and their love of food as a bonding experience. Every plate of food, from the smallest tapas to bigger dishes, is a celebration, an inspired moment. Over the festive season, tapas and salads can turn impromptu meals into moments of love and sharing, because they are quick and easy to prepare, making delicious mouthfuls when guests and family stay longer than planned,” says Chantal.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re playing the hospitable host to family from near and far this festive season, there are a few things you can do to ensure it’s a happy time for all. To guide you, Chantal has compiled a list of her top 5 tips, truths, and go-tos, that will help when it comes to handling guests and family who stay longer than expected, whether it’s afternoon drinks that turn into dinner, or a couple of days that risk becoming, *gulp*, weeks.
- Be upfront from the get-go. Many of us are naturally inclined people pleasers and often, this makes it difficult for us to broach the subject of boundaries with the people who stay in our home. While it can be uncomfortable to have conversations around what we do or don’t want (especially when there are unspoken expectations from family members), it’s worth doing so in advance. Chantal has a rule that she’s made clear to anyone who spends time in her home: if you come off the beach, you must leave your slip slops outside and wash your feet before entering the house. By clearly communicating this, and even placing a bucket with a towel at the door, everyone knows what’s expected of them – and there are fewer pairs of sandy slip slops left lying around the house!
- One last bite. You know those lunches that run into the evening and in spite of serving a full meal hours before, you have guests on your hands who’re beginning to get peckish? While we’re not suggesting you dive back into the kitchen, you can put lunch’s leftovers to use in a simple salad (you’ll find ample inspiration in Chantal’s, The Ultimate Salad Book, with over 100 salad ideas that won’t take long to prepare – or eat!)
- Save some ‘me time’. When it comes to a full house, it’s important to let everyone know that you need a little ‘me time’ sometimes. As Chantal often has small children staying over Christmas, there is an understanding that the hours between 14:30 and 16:00 are dedicated to ‘quiet time’. During this time, everyone gets the opportunity to sit back, nap or relax, ensuring that visitors don’t pop in unannounced. By letting everyone know when you’re planning on taking some quiet time during the day, you won’t feel pressured to keep everyone entertained. Being up front about your space and your time means that you and your family will better understand each other, avoiding unnecessary tension.
- Easy can be best. Rather than serve up a three-course meal that requires hours of cooking in the kitchen, give yourself the gift of less stress by serving tapas, which are quick to prep and put together. Chantal’s All Sorts of Tapas cookbook serves up an array of recipes for little dishes that are a feast for the eyes and packed full-to-bursting with big flavours. Not only are these good fun to enjoy with your friends and family, you’ll hopefully have less cleaning to do when the last guests take their leave.
- Give your guests something to do. If you find someone staying past their welcome, whether it’s at a party or on holiday, ask them to pitch in. This will hopefully result in an extra set of hands to help get things done.
“In the past, hosts may have been expected to do everything – but no more. While you’ve got guests and family in your home, let them help out: say ‘yes’ when they offer to do the dishes, get groceries, split the catering, and even help clean the house. That way, you’ll avoid feeling resentful or petty, and have more time to truly enjoy their company. Which, when you think about it, is what the festive season is all about,” says Chantal.
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