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 What we all can Learn From Millennials

I think we can all learn from the millennials about entertaining. I know it seems odd to seek advice from a generation with such reputation for entitlement, but they offer some good lessons. I highlight here two in particular: 1.) How to use the internet, the cause of many bad cooking habits and lack of skills, as a source of good in entertaining. 2.) How to enjoy your own party more.

A Brief History of Millennial Habits

Millennials generally get a bad rap about many behaviors at work and play, but I think we all can learn some good tips that are emerging from how the time-pressed, frugal millennial prefer to entertain. Several years ago, Millennials were less likely to eat at home either for entertaining or day to day meals. Now, the reality of children, higher expenses and planning for the future is changing those habits. Millennials are entertaining at home a lot, but they are finding new ways to entertain that make the experience even more enjoyable.

 

In years past, Millenials, and whatever they call the age group that are younger, ate at home 5+ days a week less that 40% of the time and this is now moving to greater than 50%. And entertaining is changing as well in frequency and enjoyment:

Too Difficult to Decide what to Cook and Serve 

So what do we learn, Millennials and other groups alike, that can beneficially improve our  own entertaining. The top two reasons people cook at home and entertain at home— saving money and eating healthier — plays into Millennials’ interests. Nothing new to learn here. 

On the other hand, Millennials are seen as more time-pressed than older generations. They already eat out and purchase prepared meals more, and they’re less likely to have learned to cook from their parents versus older generations. According to a study commissioned by the British retailer and service provider Co-Op, one third of millennials rely on a handful of dishes they know well.

The cooking and entertaining journey starts with a spark—a curiosity about what to cook and what beverages to serve. These what-do-I-make moments can be confusing to millennials, with 31% of them saying that choosing what to cook was the least enjoyable part of the cooking process.

Is the Internet to Blame?

In her article, Why food-obsessed millennials suck at cookingBy Rebecca Santiago, The New York Post; October 3, 2017, Santiago postulates that the cause of this "what do I make" issue emanates from the internet. In a new article published in the journal Memory, researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz and University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign have found that 'cognitive offloading', or the tendency to rely on things like the Internet as an aide-mémoire, increases after each use.

Dr. Benjamin Storm says that skills themselves stagnate, too. “Offloading robs you of the opportunity to develop the long-term knowledge structures that help you make creative connections, have novel insights and deepen your knowledge,” he says. Nicholas Carr, author of What the internet is doing to our brains, describes this process as “essential to the creation of knowledge and wisdom”. The unappetizing result: rote, uninspired dishes that would make your granny scoff. 

Lesson #1 - Use the Power of the Internet for Good 

Despite the pitfalls of cognitive offloading, there exists an nearly infinite universe of sources for the most delicious foods in the countless blogs, videos, articles and other sources of recipes and cooking techniques. What will solve pain and indecision of the "what do I make"  moment evolves by developing the confidence for trying new foods and recipes and establishing the knowledge and wisdom through experimentation. Use the internet as a great source of information about what to try. The pleasure and excitement of trying new foods and recipes will become a pleasurable rather than painful part of the entertaining experience.

Quick ways I have found to navigate the choices and internet searches:

  1. Pick in your head, from a magazine, from a novel, from a friend - anywhere- at least one special ingredient you want to try. It can be something that is in season, be a primary ingredient or a vegetable, or be a spice or other flavor enhancer. 
  2. Search the internet with this ingredient with "Recipes for [ blank ] " or "Recipes with [ blank ]". Even better if you choose 2 or more ingredients. You can just add them to the list. 
  3. You will find pages and pages of ideas. Pick the ones that both sound best to you and that match the time and effort you want to put in.  For every great ingredient, there is at least one recipe that is easier and one that is harder. You may find other ingredients you like and just make a new recipe search with new [ blanks ].
  4. After choosing the dish, you can pick sides either in the same process or by searching " sides with [ blank]" 
  5. If all this fails, call me (720-330-0441) or write (cduke@to-table.com). I will help as best I can!

 Enjoy your own Party

Research also reveals a change in how parties are constructed. In an Allrecipes survey, "A quarter of the people we surveyed say they're less likely to cook a three-course meal when they entertain at home than in the past. A similar proportion say that no matter how many courses they're preparing, they avoid cooking labor-intensive dishes more than they once did. But now, over-complicated food is a thing of the past, apparently, as hosts prepare dishes in advance that allow them to enjoy their own party.

Lesson #2 - Prepare Early and Enjoy

Having fun at your own party is all about preparation. The preparation begins with menu planning and shopping. Included in the preparation is choosing the foods to serve that give you as much freedom just before and during the party as you need and want. A casserole is on one side of the equation but many other types of dishes require little or limited activity right before the meal. You can still have quick get togethers without planning, but for a memorable party, give enough time to:

  • Send invitations or call Guests 10-15 days in advance
  • Decide on Menu - 10 days in advance
  • Order on Line Foods - 7 days in advance
  • Buy Flowers and Shop as local grocery - 1 day in advance
  • Clean house and rearrange furniture (if necessary) - 2 days in advance
  • Make as much of dishes or preparation for dishes  - 1 day in advance
  • Set Table, arrange flowers, final meal prep, and beverage preparation 2-3 hours before party. Don't forget to leave time ot get dressed the way you before guests arrive.
  • Have a beverage - 15 minutes before gets arrive.

Speaking of beverages, setting up a simple beverage station can help you better enjoy your own party. The cornerstone of any beverage station is a signature, big-batch cocktail. It can be as simple as a pitcher of lemonade with some vodka or something more complex like a rum punch. The idea is simple: Make a gallon or two, put it in pitchers, and let your guests pour it over ice. Also have beer, wine and soft drinks at the station. I also let people mix simple drinks using soda, tonic, water ice and cut up limes and lemons. I usually make the first drink and let guests handle the refills.

An even better way to enjoy your own party: hire a server or two and really be a guest at your own party. Not that expensive and and a great way to enjoy.

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