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As a host, nothing gives me more pleasure than preparing a beautiful and inviting spread of snacks and treats for my guests—but making things too pretty can actually discourage people from eating the food. “I don’t want to mess it up!” they say, hovering around the hummus. “It looks too pretty!”

There is an easy solution to this silly problem: Eat a little bit of the spread before the guests get there.

Last week, I had a little gathering for a friend who was visiting from out of town. I set a bowl of edibles in my finest Depression glass candy dish, bought way too much fruit, and made a big platter of Russian nachos (individual potato chips topped with sour cream, caviar, and chives).

A few friends arrived, and they began to hover. Finally, after some light chatting, I couldn’t take it anymore. I began to eat the Russian nachos myself. “Oh,” a friend said. “I didn’t know we were allowed to start.”

By eating a little of the food before your guests arrive, you made your spread look a little lived in, and a lot more inviting. Messing it up a little beforehand means your guests won’t have to suffer anxiety about being the first to dig in, as you’ll have already done the hard work for them.

Eat a couple of olives and place the pits in a ramekin so your guests know where to chuck ‘em. Slice into the brie and get the knife dirty. Swoop into the hummus with a carrot and (lightly) disrupt the beautiful swirl of olive oil on top. Fuck things up a bit so your guests won’t worry about being the ones to fuck them up, and witness as they dive into your dips and chomp into your charcuterie with gusto, mere minutes after their arrival.


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