Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

But What About the Recipes?

Once upon a time my identity revolved around my kitchen expertise. If a friend had a cooking question, they didn’t look it up; they called me. I would sigh and say, “Do you read your cookbooks? Ok, here’s what you do.” Then I’d hang up, puffed up bigger than the lemon soufflé rising in the oven. The feedback was addictive: I make it, they eat it, they love it, they love me – instant gratification.

Well, not always instant – the twelve-layer Dobosh torte was pretty time-consuming, given that the top layer was cut into wedges, caramelized and then leaned against chocolate buttercream rosettes. My specialty was pretentious, “I’ve been in the kitchen all day you better appreciate it/me” cooking. And I had a thing for layers, 12-layer tortes, layered gourmandise de legumes, (the term ‘food snob’ comes to mind) layered salads, trifles, “oh, look at all the pretty colors” parfaits, all of which led eventually to some other layers that I won’t elaborate on except to say that they make it difficult to fit into my skinny jeans.

Repeat recipes? Forget it; somebody might remember, (as if that would be a bad thing). If a recipe was less than three pages long, I turned up my nose. Not that I couldn’t wing it in the kitchen, I loved to improvise, but I had (and have) a healthy respect for solid, based-on-sound-technique recipes. Of course they were long, difficult and time-consuming; they were French!

Here’s the dictionary definition of recipe: Rec-i-pe /resipee/n. 1. A statement of the ingredients and procedure required for preparing cooked food. Synonyms: prescription, formula, method, technique, system, way, means, procedure.

I guess I'm a lot looser about everything these days because that, my friends, does not beckon me to the kitchen, at least, not anymore.

Here’s the definition I prefer: an expedient; a device for achieving something.

My translation of that is, “Make it easy, ‘cause I’d really like to enjoy my friends.” So, yes, friends, The Shared Table will include “expedients” from time to time, but there won’t be a ton of ingredients, measurements or instructions. Simpler is, well…simpler. And better, in my book. Stay tuned.


What is Hospitality? part one

A tavola, non si invecchia.  "At the table, you don't grow old," declared my first year Italian instructor.

Maybe that was true in Italy – but not at my house. My intentions were good, but by the time I'd finally get the food on the table, I felt older than the aged cheese on the antipasto tray. I loved cooking and entertaining but often wound up missing the party because of the over ambitious menus I planned.  

I'd picture my guests and myself at the table, deep in conversation, or gathered around the stove, laughing and enjoying each other’s company, but it’s kind of hard to connect with people when you’re desperately trying to spin threads of caramel on a humid summer day, or attempting to make cantaloupe mousse in January when the melons are hard as a rock. Yes, I did that. I was a harried hostess because I totally misunderstood the meaning of hospitality. Then I met Shelby.


The Key to Hospitality

When I first met her I was a mess, depressed and depleted from a seemingly endless season of family struggles,  illness,  job loss and the resulting financial stress. Shelby heard about it and invited me to her lakeside home for what she called a “little retreat.” When I pulled into her driveway, I saw a small-scale Airstream trailer parked near the entrance. Shelby greeted me, handed me the key to the trailer and told me to stay as long as I liked. I could have stayed forever. Shelby had papered the ceiling and walls with maps, murals and posters of exotic vacation spots; reading materials were stacked next to a comfy built-in bed, soothing music played in the background and there was a note encouraging me to walk down to the lake or take a nap if I wanted. A few glorious hours later, she knocked on the door carrying a tray with tea and coffee and cookies. By the time I went home, I felt like a new woman –  I will never forget her or that afternoon.

Someone who I didn’t even know had seen a need and realized they had the means to address it. In the book Radical Hospitality, it says, "Hospitality is the overflowing of a heart that has to share what it has received." Shelby showed me hospitality by first, perceiving the need, and second, by sharing what she'd received: the gift of creativity. She employed her gift to create a place of respite for the weary and the hurting.

THE LAST COURSE: What gifts or talents have you been given that you could share with others? Freely giving them away ensures that your own Divine Supply will never run out.