Who has influenced you most in the area of hospitality? Without a doubt, for me it has been my mother. She was always known as the “hostess with the mostest”. She never did anything small or in moderation and always with a purpose and a theme.
Born at the beginning of the depression, she followed in the footsteps of her grandmother who said “I never remember feeding less than 20 people”. Mom always tried to include everyone. Over the years, my parents both became second parents to several cousins, and family friends. They modeled Biblical hospitality as well as the kind magazines write about.
I can't tell you how many hours Mom spent at our kitchen table, despite having a full-time job, talking, laughing, and counseling not only us, but relatives, our friends and hers, employees, and I am sure, a few near strangers. An avid reader, her quiet was often interrupted, but she would unselfishly put her book down and engage with whomever needed a listening ear. A lot of wisdom was shared, and continues to be over copious cups of coffee.
A while back, I sat her down for an "interview" to get her perspective on the subject of hospitality and entertaining.
Q: How would you define hospitality?
A: That word has many avenues. It is an openness to people, an awareness of people, meaning that some who focus extremely well can have tunnel vision. It’s inclusivity.
There is hospitality that is grand and planned. Then there are the phone calls, “Can I come and sit in your kitchen?” and it’s 6 pm and there are seven kids in the house.
God’s appointments are not always planned, instead they are often inconvenient. The source of His blessing through you is unexpected and you may not remember it. You aren’t aware and can’t take any credit for it. "The right hand should not know what the left hand is doing". It’s about being obedient to the Spirit; divine providence.
Q: What makes a house a home?
A: Love. Incorporating into our adult homes what made us feel safe and gave us cherished memories as children. Who we are is a summation of our lives. Homes are personal and inclusive, welcoming.
Q: You always said that if you celebrate a holiday in a new house, it makes it a home. Why is that?
A: It’s about tradition, carrying on old ones and starting new ones. It’s about the anticipation before and the memories after.
Q: What is the difference between entertaining and hospitality?
A: Simply put, entertaining is for entertaining’s sake. Entertaining sometimes has to do with climbing the social ladder. Hospitality extends much further. It always starts with heart; “I want to get to know you; I want to spend time with you.”
Q: How has entertaining (hospitality) changed over the years?
A: Very seldom do people entertain in their homes anymore. They make reservations.
Q: Why do you think that is?
A: Time, fear, and money.
Families are much busier now and you get comfortable with your own circle.
People are afraid to do it because they did not learn from those before them.
People are short on money and sometimes short on imagination.
There is also very little reciprocity. Meaning that when someone does get invited to a person’s home, it is rare that the invitation is returned.
Q: What was your biggest entertaining disaster?
A: Hotdogs in barbecue sauce that stayed on the stove WAY too long. (It was the maiden voyage of a new recipe that was definitely not worth repeating. Decades later it is still remembered as the worst meal Mom ever made. Fortunately, it only involved the immediate family.)
If something went wrong, I just renamed it (something French, if I could) and served it anyway. To use up leftovers, we had “Naeng Jung Go Smorgasbord” (refrigerator buffet).
Q: What was your biggest entertaining success?
A: The weddings of my girls.
Q: What made them successful?
A: Hospitality has to start with heart. We had so much gratitude for the provision of your husbands and there was so much happiness surrounding the events. They would have been just about entertaining had we not been invested in the unions. Weddings are about dreams. Even the vendors were invested. All the dreams that were literally hidden under your bed came to fruition. (My father still doesn’t know what it cost, nor has he pushed to find out.)
Q: What advice do you have about entertaining/hospitality?
Always have a full larder(pantry) and a laden table-never run out.
When hosting teenagers, I welcomed them all, no matter their condition. But my rule was that if they left, they were not allowed back. (It’s the return trips where real trouble can start.)
It’s a matter of “just do it”.