Archive for July, 2010

Excuses, excuses

"Others have excuses; I have my reasons why" Nickel Creek

Most of us would rather have a once-a-year open house than a year-round open-door policy. Here are some of the excuses I’ve used or heard over the years:

1. It's too hard when you have small children How about inviting the single mom you met at the park over for coffee while the kids play? A noisy family dinner would be comforting to a homesick college student or the widow down the street. Get your kids involved; hand the youngest a dust rag and let the older ones set the table and pass out the food. You’ll have help and they’ll be learning about hospitality.

2. It costs too much Focus on making friends rather than making a mess in your kitchen; food isn’t the only way to connect with people. Try planning activities instead of menus: ask a new friend to join you on a walking tour of a never-explored part of the city, invite another family to the park and bring along a thermos of hot or cold drinks. Have a game night; you provide the beverages and ask guests to bring chips and dips. Get creative.

3. My house is too: small, old, funky Trust me, nobody notices the imperfections but you. Before we had a dining room table, our guests ate on TV trays beside the fireplace and they still talk about how much fun they had. Accept where you are and have fun; your company will be thrilled that you thought of them.

4. I can’t cook Perfect one or two recipes and make them your signature dish. Once people find out you make the best pound cake in the neighborhood, you’ll gain the confidence you need to branch out. Or simply learn to prepare a great cup of coffee and make your kitchen table available to someone who needs to talk.

5. I’m too busy If you truly want to have an “open door” policy, you may have to sacrifice something to create space in your schedule as well as in your heart. People tend to invest in what they value. What’s important to you?

6. If I can’t do it right, I’m not doing it You may need to evaluate what “doing it right” means to you. What preconceived notions and “have-to's” are holding you back? Try “just doing it” rather than obsessing about doing it perfectly. 

Risky business

It’s definitely risky to open your door and let others see you just as you are – but it’s worth it. Sometimes I still get overzealous and run around the kitchen like a madwoman, but as long as I can laugh at myself, my guests laugh, too. And that’s all I care about. No more excuses! 

THE LAST COURSE: Need more inspiration? Here are a few of my favorite quotes about hospitality:

  • "When hospitality becomes an art, it loses its very soul." Max Beerbohm. Don’t neglect your creativity; instead use it to create an atmosphere conducive to being present with your guests.
  • "Let not the emphasis of hospitality lie in bed and board; but let truth and love and honor and courtesy flow in all thy deeds." Ralph Waldo Emerson. Sheets not 1,000 thread count? Serving leftovers? Hospitality ultimately requires a shift in focus.

Eat, love, pray!

"It's not about the food and it's not about me."

When I was young I taught myself to cook and discovered I was a natural, especially at baking. Given my insecurities back then, this was like adding an extra handful of yeast to the bread dough – that sucker's gonna' puff up! Here's how I thought about cooking :

I prepare the food, people eat the food; they love it, they love me! It's all about me!

It stood to reason that if they loved me for my single layer Austrian hazelnut cake, they'd really love me if I baked a twelve-layer Dobosh Torte. Talk about ego; Showing hospitality? More like showing off. Plus I always had to outdo myself – what if my cake falls, what if I forget and make the same dish? What if they don't like it/me?!

Fast forward to 2005. I became a speaker for Stonecroft Ministries and while studying the art of public speaking, I read a quote about the difference between an amateur speaker and a professional: the amateur takes the podium and says "Here I am!" The professional looks out at the audience and says, "There you are!"

Hospitality is basically saying, "There you are!" It took a while, but gradually I came to understand that you can  be a fabulous cook and not be the least bit hospitable, and you can be the most hospitable person in the world and not have a clue how to cook. I knew how to cook long before I knew how to be hospitable.

THE LAST COURSE: In her book, The Lady in the Palazzo, Marlena De Blasi says, "It's not what's on the table, but who's on the chairs."  Don't misunderstand; food and hospitality are intimately related, but sometimes we need to adjust our priorities. Great cooks and not-so-great cooks often share the same problem: pride and ego and can get in the way of connecting with others. And isn't connecting what it's all about?    

 *Some of my favorite people are seated on these chairs: My husband Roger, grandson Tyler and granddaughter Alexis, who cooked dinner for us! Salad, cornbread and skillet stuffed peppers!  

                                                         

sdfsdfsdfsdfsdfsdfs*Seated on these chairs are some of my favorite people: My husband Roger, grandson Tyler and granddaughter Alexis, who cooked dinner for us! Salad, cornbread and skillet stuffed peppers! *Seated on these chairs are some of my favorite people: My husband Roger, grandson Tyler and granddaughter Alexis, who cooked dinner for us! Salad, cornbread and skillet stuffed peppers! *Seated on these chairs are some of my favorite people: My husband Roger, grandson Tyler and granddaughter Alexis, who cooked dinner for us! Salad, cornbread and skillet stuffed peppers!

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What is Hospitality? part two

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WHat Wh What exactly IS hospitality? Here's a quote from Ambrose Bierce, American satirist and author of The Devil's Dictionary:

"Hospitality – the virtue which induces us to feed and lodge certain persons who are not in need of food and lodging."   You can understand why Bierce was considered a satirist, but all in all, his definition is merely an inverse of the original Biblical meaning.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary tells us that the word for hospitality is from the Greek word philoxenos. Take that word apart and you have philo, meaning brotherly love. Here's where it gets interesting – Xenos means stranger. Have you ever heard of xenophobia – fear of strangers? Good word to describe how many of us feel today, isn't it?

Do you remember the scene in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" when the father can't handle the fact that his daughter wants to marry someone outside the Greek heritage? "Xeno!" he cries. She is marrying a stranger.

So philoxenos, hospitality, means loving strangers. It's more than setting a nice table, or creating an inviting ambience in a room. It's about conveying a sense of acceptance towards those who are not like us.

  THE LAST COURSE:    How long has it been since you' ve entertained a 'stranger?' The next time you invite people over, consider including someone you just met, or ask a guest to bring a friend.  Afterwards, reflect on what new things you've learned from that interaction.   The TheTheasdasThethe  werrer