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Plan Food

Mouth-watering food is the one sure way to attract people together. Here's your chance to plan one or more meals that will stir up family togetherness.

Oh, yum! Delicious barbequed ribs, savory fried chicken, succulent hamburgers grilled to perfection! Just thinking about it makes your mouth water. It's traditional to eat picnic foods at family reunions, especially if you're getting together for just an afternoon. Add deviled eggs, potato salad, gelatin desserts and freshly-baked pies and you'll hardly be able to wait.

Of course, there's no law that says you have to eat picnic foods at your family reunion. How about trying something ethnic--to go along with your family's heritage--or something to go with your theme. If your family is health-conscious, maybe you'll want more salads and vegetarian entrees. Whatever you eat, you need to plan what it will be. Here's a guide to help you with the key issues.

How Many Meals?

Start by deciding how many meals you need to serve for the reunion. Will the reunion last for just an afternoon? Then you'll likely only need one meal with perhaps some peanuts or carrot sticks for tossing into the mouths of hungry grazers. Planning a three-day weekend? Then you'll have to decide whether to feed everyone three meals a day or let them fend for themselves some of the time. It helps to make a list of the meals you need and whether they are breakfasts, lunches, dinners or something else. Two dinners and a breakfast? A single dinner?

What's On the Menu?

Next, decide whether your meals will follow your theme. If you've chosen a Middle-Eastern country as your theme, for instance, you'll reinforce the theme by eating traditional dishes such as falafel or coucous. If you're holding the reunion at a dude ranch, your meals will likely be cowboy grub prepared by the staff's chuckwagon chef. Even if you don't have a theme, you can center your food choices around your family's ethnic heritage or use old family recipes passed down for generations.

Watch Out for Food Intolerances

Whatever approach you choose, remember that some family members may have dietary restrictions. Allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, fish and shell fish, soy, and wheat are commonplace. Diseases such as diabetes and celiac disease (inability to tolerate gluten) afflict millions of people. So offer a variety of foods that let family members select items they can tolerate.

Where Will You Get It?

Decide the source of each meal. Here are some options:
  • Cook it yourself.
  • Ask friends or neighbors to cook and serve. (You can reciprocate by helping at their reunion.)
  • Ask family members to bring potluck.
  • Eat out at a restaurant.
  • Have the meal catered.
  • Let your hotel or inn serve it.

If you choose potluck or help from friends, be sure to make assignments so the food actually shows up. If you choose to eat out, check whether the restaurant requires reservations and let them know you may be bringing a large group to eat.

Please take out your calendar or a pad of paper and write down your plans for the meals.