Whether you’re new to military life or you’ve been around the block (well, around the world) a time or two, you still feel that momentary panic when you realize you’re going to have to entertain members of your spouse’s unit. Your hands shake as you wonder, “What will I serve? Can I come up with an interesting menu? I need to clean the house! Is anyone allergic to shellfish?”
At least once a month, military units – whether Army, Air Force, Marines or Navy – military spouses gather in someone’s home. What is the purpose of these meetings? The unit commander’s wife has to pass on information on upcoming events and about procedures that are changing. She may need to inform you about a change in how you schedule medical appointments at the dispensary, or new parking regulations for the commissary.
The military spouse hosting the coffee sessions plans a menu so she (or he) can entertain fellow spouses. Let’s take a quick look at what a unit coffee menu might look like:
- Coffee (of course!)
- Tea, iced or hot
- Wine (why not?)
- Small sandwiches
- Chips and dip
- Small dessert
If you are living overseas, don’t skip local delicacies!
Some coffees may follow a theme, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day.
Some unit commanders or their spouses are all about having fun, getting to know everyone and doing so over plates of food. A barbecue is the perfect time to do this. Steaks, hot dogs, grilled chicken and even a few grilled brats (bratwurst) will be on the menu. What else could you include, if you’re hosting a unit barbecue?
- Potato salad (add drained black olives for extra zing)
- Grilled veggies
- Pasta salad (use rotini, red, orange, yellow and green bell peppers, red onion and celery)
- Baked beans (add chopped, cooked bacon, onion and green bell pepper for additional flavor)
- Tossed salad (for additional nutritional oomph, use romaine lettuce. Grape tomatoes, red onion and even sliced cucumber can round out a great summer salad)
Beverages can include:
- Iced tea
- Flavored punches for the kids
- Beer and wine coolers for the adults
- Ice cream sundaes
Inviting Your Spouse’s Commander to Dinner?
Now, this is the biggie: Your spouse came home and told you that you’re going to be hosting his boss and the boss’ spouse. What will you serve? If you’re living overseas, you can take advantage of the local cuisine. Whether you’re living in the U.K., Germany or Italy, don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’re not sure what the unit commander and his spouse would like, fall back on a more traditional menu:
- Chicken kebabs
- Saffron rice
- Greek salad, including Kalamata olives
- Fresh vegetables
- Dessert can be a fruit tart or a local dessert
- Serve coffee, iced tea or wine
Don’t Forget About Food Allergies
Food allergies are a big concern. From peanuts to milk, eggs and shellfish, these can cause potentially fatal reactions, so you need to know if anyone you’ll be serving is vulnerable.
Ask your spouse to pass this question around – he can ask fellow members of his unit to let him know privately if anyone in the unit – or a family member – suffers a serious food allergy. This will help you as you do your shopping – and you’ll be able to serve foods that everyone will be able to enjoy.
One quick note: Some allergens are present in prepared foods, sauces and processed foods. Read labels closely.