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In a pickle: What to do with an unexpected guest

Katherine Martinelli is an internationally published food and travel writer and photographer who contributes regularly to publications on three continents. She recently released her first cookbook, Puff Pastry at Brunch: 10 Sweet and Sa...

No notice, no problem!

A surprise visitor, whether at a dinner party or a family supper, can make any composed person fly into a tizzy. But never fear. These simple tips will make sure you're prepared and your guest feels welcomed.
No notice, no problem!

Make them feel welcomed

Making your unannounced visitor feel welcomed, happy and comfortable will likely make the meal more pleasant. Embrace a “the more the merrier” attitude, and the meal will take on a merry vibe.

Check out these tips for welcoming unexpected houseguests >>

Assess the situation

If you are the type of person who tends to cook for an army and serve dinner family style, then chances are you can accommodate a few extra people with no problems. If you were plating up individual portions, then things may get a little tricky. Worse comes to worst, you can split your portion with your spouse or co-host so your guest can have a full one. Determine if you need to make extra food and what you can quickly put out.

Have a cocktail hour

As soon as an extra person (or three?!) shows up, take stock of what you have. Put out extra snacks before dinner is served to quell appetites. Nuts and microwave popcorn make for great, easy cocktail snacks. For something a little fancier, you can put together a lovely selection of hors d'oeuvres with common pantry staples like olives, roasted peppers, marinated artichoke hearts or even canned tuna.

Learn how to quickly clean the house for unexpected guests >>

Pad the meal

You probably won’t have to go so far as to water down the soup, but consider padding the meal a bit. Raid the fridge and see if you have any leftovers you can heat up and put on the table. Maybe you have the makings for an extra salad, or some bread you can toast up and serve. If it’s still not enough food, think about what you can quickly whip up. A side dish made with frozen vegetables or a quick pasta can come to the rescue in a pinch.


At the end of the day, it’s just a meal. Everyone at the table will understand that things may not have gone as planned, but they will take their cues from their host. So if you are happy and relaxed, chances are your guests will follow suit and have a great time. Sometimes flying by the seat of your pants can result in the most fun dinner parties.

In another pickle? Find more solutions to common kitchen problems >>

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