I'm a terrible host. I have an official sit-down kind of lunch or dinner at my place about once a year only and I really don't care about what someone may think of my presentation as long as the food I'm serving doesn't get anyone food poisoning. People should just be able to have a good time over fun conversation and be super comfortable. Those are my goals.
But this year when we decided to have an iftari at our place for just a few of our close friends, I decided to set up a table that only pretended to look like hard work but was actually super duper super duper easy. Enter lots of Pinterest inspiration I've digested over the years and my obsession with green.
I wanted something fresh and summery (cos it's hot, bros) and easy on the eyes. I also want to remind you that I'm a task-simplifier and I don't personally enjoy it when I go to someone's place and the hosts are hardly at the table because they're prepping the food or clearing out the table, etc. Everyone should sit together if that's what the gathering is for. So I chose on an easy table setup (took me under 30 mins) with no fuss food (I'll share that at the end because so many people asked me about that on Snapchat) and disposable plates and it was the best.
Check it out, friends. Please tell if you like?
I'll explain below in detail what I did, along with a short and quick video on how I put the centerpiece (?) together, and if you appreciate what I've done, you can easily replicate it for yourself. I'll also suggest alternatives if you can't find the exact same stuff like those paper plates. Ok, let's go.
What You Need:
I had all of this in my home already except the plates
Greens for the centerpiece/tablescape (whatever you want to call it, don't know that much English)
Setup time: 30 mins
1. Green Tablescape: These are all faux green branches/stems that are all randomly assembled together (see video at the end). I started at one end and started taping them down so no one would accidentally move them and ruin my life. I already had them on me as props for my work, but not everyone's going to have these on hand already, so if you want to get yourself some, here are a few options.
a) Purchase. I usually buy mine from Creative Minds in Dubai, they have a huge selection and if you want to regularly use them, then you can easily pick some up. They should cost you about AED 150 - 250 depending on the stuff you pick.
b) Snip some off the real plants you already have at home. A tiny stem off each plant will do the job. Or you could beg a neighbor for one.
c) Go to your local nursery and tell them to give you anything they're ready to toss. You'll find enough greens to make it work and they won't die until the next day too.
2. Candles: Random candles from around the house. One was a gift from H&M Home and one was from Ace Hardware (10 AED).
3. Disposable Plates: In Ramzan I usually use disposable plates because I have friends over nearly everyday or have family visiting and it's a nightmare to do 5000 dishes on a daily basis. It takes time out of my schedule that I want to put aside for taravih and tafseer, and in parallel food coma is breaking boundaries so the mind is unbelievably numb at most points, so I try to do everything that I can to not waste time in pointless chores. On regular days, I use simple plates but if I want to make it a tiny bit special, I buy these bio-plates that are environmental friendly and look uber sexy too. I get these from Carrefour or Geant (you might not find them in the disposable plates section, sometimes they are in the party plates aisle).
Some of you had a few comments on the paper plates when I posted earlier so I'll address them quickly:
a) Disposable paper plates are not the best option in the long term because they are definitely a waste of the planet's resources. The only reason I use them in Ramzan is because with the kind of traffic I have at home at iftari (and sometimes even sehri) I save water with not having to wash a truckload of dishes. Is it an equal tradeoff? I don't know but it makes sense to me. Plus I've compromised on prayer time in previous years because of all the extra Ramzan food prep and cleanup work and I'm very clear that I don't want to do that anymore.
b) These plates I've only seen here in Dubai. I'm not sure if they sell in Pakistan. If they don't and you can't imagine using disposable plates for a formal dinner, I'll suggest some alternatives at the end. You can read and assess if they work for you.
4. Gold Cutlery: I got mine for super cheap from Daiso in Battuta. They don't look inexpensive and plus I love gold, bros.
5. Tissue & Twine: Just your basic white tissue, rolled up like a cigarette and tied together with twine. I snipped tiny stems off my faux IKEA plants (the smallest size ones) and inserted one into each knot of the twine.
6. Glasses. I got these from Crate & Barrel about 4 years ago and they were definitely not worth it. C&B is terribly expensive, I was possibly hallucinating when I bought them because I would never do that again. They're pretty, sure, but I think they were about 20 bucks a piece? I use them about twice a year which is exactly why I don't buy expensive stuff - you're so scared of breaking it, YOU DON'T LIVE YOUR FREAKING LIFE. I got another set of really pretty summer glasses, that I use everyday btw and they're twice as sturdy, from Home Center. And they were 7 bucks a piece. What is this life. I'm not vomiting over C&B, it's great for specialty stuff, but for generic things like GLASSES TO DRINK WATER FROM, I stick to Home Center. I used the C&B ones here because my table was small and with the centerpiece, I wanted something low in height.
So in summary:
1. I assembled the green centerpiece.
2. Added candles.
3. Placed the paper plates around it.
4. Threw the spoons and forks next to them.
5. Added tissue and twine.
6. Added glasses.
Now let's check out some pictures before we talk alternatives.
For the tablescape
- Other things you can do instead of the greens: a) Flowers b) Dry stems c) Lots of tiny plants arranged in one line in the center of the table d) A line of candles
- Instead of candles in the middle of the greens: a) Add a couple of flowers b) A couple of cacti in small pots
For the plates
- Embrace the regular white, boring plates and play with other things.
a) Get a colored tissue to place in the middle of the plate as the main accent
b) Take a big leaf and place in the middle of the white plate and add a white paper bowl on top. The leaf will add interest
c) Take brown circular placemats and put them under the white paper plates, it will make them look sexy
d) Put a flower in the middle of every white plate, instant dose of pretty.
e) Find solid colored paper plates and use those instead of white. Imagine a peach colored plate in this setup with neutral accents.
I know people say you can't do the paper plate thing in Pakistan. Do it if you want to, doesn't matter what anyone else says. I always ignore such nonsense and do whatever I want to - as long as it doesn't harm anyone you're good to go. Try it.
If you'd like to see how simple it is to put together the centerpiece/tablescape (I still don't know what it's called, check out this very awesome (?) video below.
And for those asking for what food we did, here's what was on the menu. There were 5 iftari items and one dessert. Each of this took minutes to prepare - I prepped everything, except the bread, the night before.
1. Fruit Chaat
2. Dahi phulki
3. Fried samosas and prawn (I use Al Kabeer chicken samosas and some frozen prawn I don't remember the brand of)
4. Chicken Alfredo Bread (recipe here)
5. Dahi puri station (I got the puris from Al Adil and made yogurt and chutneys with it) Check out my Instagram to see it.
6. Imli and Green Chutneys (recipes here)
7. Papri (that I made at the beginning of Ramzan, recipe here)
8. White chocolate dipped dates with cashews (bought from Geant)
9. Banoffee Pie (I'll post the recipe on Tuesday)
Our friends also brought over quite a lot of food so we had way too much to eat (I don't really like having so much but then we reused the same stuff next day).
That's it, guys. If you do something like this for any of your Iftaris or Eid, I'd LOVE to know because ainveen. So tell me.