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Dear Life Kit: I love hosting, but I'm terrified of cooking

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash; Collage by NPR

It's easy to assume that everyone else has it together — perfectly organized spice racks and gourmet dinners effortlessly pulled together at the last minute. But Deb Perelman will be the first to tell you that's definitely not the case. The founder of the iconic food blog Smitten Kitchen is upfront about the reality that our lives are full and our counters are messy.

We asked her to answer your anonymous questions about hosting dinner parties and how to handle clutter in the kitchen.

@npr I’m scared to cook for my friends, what should I do? Deb Perelman from @smitten kitchen answers this question for Life Kit’s advice column. #NPR #dearlifekit #nprlifekit #advice #advicecolumn #cookingtips #hostingtips ♬ original sound - npr

I love hosting, but I'm terrified of cooking for other people. Especially since most of my friends are foodies. Do you have any advice for me? — The host without the most

Hospitality is coziness. It's about welcoming people into your home and letting them feel comfortable – and the best way to do that is to make your favorite food. So, don't go fancy. Don't go showy. Nobody needs a lecture about where the chicken came from in its childhood. Make food that's really cozy and homey to you.

I love making spaghetti and meatballs when I have people over. I've made chicken pot pies or vegetable pot pies. I've also made mussels and fries many times, which sounds really fancy but is incredibly simple.

I think a good rule of thumb is that if you feel comfortable and cozy at the end of the night, and everyone stays too long, it was a really good time.

I have a kitchen counter that always ends up cluttered. It drives me nuts. What can I do to keep it organized? — Clutterly confused

There are two parts of clutter. The first part is that we come home and we are just full of stuff that needs to be dumped. I came home from the gym earlier and it's like, headphones, mask, keys, sunglasses, hat, gloves, tote bags. We are encumbered people and we need to unencumber ourselves when we come home. So you're always going to have a little mess.

I think the second part of clutter is a question of whether everything has a home. Is there an empty key hook waiting for your keys? Is there an empty spot in the cabinet waiting for you to return that bottle? Is there an empty mail tray waiting for the day's deluge? If there is a spot for everything, cleaning up isn't just easy, it feels kind of satisfying, like snapping those last three puzzle pieces into place.

Have a question you want to ask Dear Life Kit? Whether it's about friendship, family, work conflict or something else, share it here.

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Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Harlan is a visual and engagement editor for NPR's Life Kit.
Bronson Arcuri is a video producer at NPR, where he directs the "Planet Money Shorts" video series and helps out with Tiny Desk Concerts from time to time. He also produced "Elise Tries" and "Ron's Office Hours" along with the "Junior Bugler" series, which he still insists was "pretty good for what it was."

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