Comfort and originality are important factors in the success of an outdoor party. Being in the open always adds to the general spirit of relaxation, but for people to be comfortable everyone should have something to sit on. Make sure you have enough benches and chairs or cushions, and make some arrangement as a substitute for the conventional table. Part of the charm of an outdoor party lies in the setting and visual appeal, so decorations should be natural. Use inexpensive pottery or wooden utensils, and decorate with leaves or flowers. There should be only a few courses at an outdoor meal, because offering too many different dishes makes service and cleanup difficult. As for any other party, try to have most of the food ready to be served and set on platters before the guests arrive.
Here is one way to handle an outdoor meal: have colorful trays, one for each guest, set with plates, cutlery and glasses. When it is time to serve, place the main course on each tray in the kitchen and ask the guests to come in to pick up their trays. Once the food has been eaten, clear away the trays. Then dessert, cheese and coffee can be brought out to a table set with the necessary plates and cutlery.
If you are serving a cold soup as a first course, put the soup in an ice bucket on a tray. This keeps the soup cool to the last drop. Surround the bucket with cups or bowls.
Another easy way is to arrange everything on a picnic table and cover the dishes with net umbrellas or plastic wrap until you are ready to cook or serve. This works well when you are having a barbecue in your own backyard.
Barbecues are good for the dinner hour, but picnics are great fun for lunchtime. All kinds of convenience foods can be used, and many things can be prepared ahead of time and kept well wrapped and ready to go. If you own a freezer you can do a large part of your cooking days or even months ahead. Portable ice chest or insulated containers will hold perishable foods and keep drinks ice cold or piping hot. Plastic plates, tumblers and food boxes are very helpful.
Try this recipe the next time you are looking for something to cook on the grill.
1 pound fresh or frozen shrimp in shells
1 slightly beaten egg
1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/3 cup salad oil
Peel and clean the shrimp. Dip each shrimp in the egg and then in the crumbs. Let the shrimp stand in the oil for 1 minute and then lightly drain on a paper towel. Cook the shrimp over hot coals for 5 minutes or until browned. Serve the shrimp with hot sauce, if desired. To prevent the shrimp from falling through the grill, cover the grid with screen wire or a cake rack.
An outdoor party can be formal or informal. Choose your food to fit the occasion. Serve grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with baked beans and chips. Or grill up some kabobs or steaks with all the trimmings for a more formal outdoor party. What ever food you serve, just remember to relax and enjoy the party.