I went to our women’s devotional Tuesday evening. The lesson was on being a gracious hostess, and opening your home to family, friends and neighbors. There were examples of very inexpensive table decorations and ways to make a “homey” environment. One of the terms thrown around was “the reluctant entertainer”. Now there is nothing like listening to a devotional, thinking “ugh…not my strength” only to have it confirmed by someone turning around and saying, “Hey Sheri – that’s just like you!” This was followed by various head nods and an encouraging comment of “and you’re a good cook, too!”
I don’t find myself to be a good cook but have determined that I can read a recipe, follow a YouTube video or overall put together a dish that doesn’t send people to the hospital (other than the fifteen years prior to finding out that my husband is allergic to peppers – but those don’t count since he didn’t know either. If you do count that, then…) Oddly, cooking has become a relaxing activity for me and I truly enjoy making something that others enjoy eating. For the past 25 or so years, I’ve made Peanut Butter Balls every Christmas. The holidays prompt me to purchase a truck load of powdered sugar, Rice Krispies, crunchy peanut butter and my weight in chocolate chips. I end up making about ten batches and single-handedly contribute to the rise of Type II Diabetes.
This has been my claim to fame while my actual “cooking” reputation was more encumbered by memories of mac’n’cheese with hot dogs or bean burritos from raising my boys. Julia Child, I was not. My poor husband probably had some severe disappointments in this area when we married, although he was a true gentlemen and rarely mentioned it until we realized that he had some severe food allergies. Then he politely asked me to stop making food that could kill him.
We entertained frequently when the kids were younger – mostly with my family or other families with kids. We have a rather small house (1340 square feet) but it seemed to expand when the kids were young – something akin to the tents in Harry Potter – there was always enough room for what we needed. As the kids grew into adults, however, and I moved into more management positions, I relied on the hospitality of friends who frequently opened their homes. Our home remained quietly put away and I didn’t really think of entertaining much. I actually didn’t think of cooking and cleaning much. I shopped for “quick” meals and kept the house clean enough to avoid being condemned.
So…how would anyone define me as a good cook, you ask? We started leading a small group with our church and that brought ample opportunities to cook – Beef Stew, Irish Shepherds Pie, Chicken with Mushrooms, Chicken Marsala and my favorite (although not Eric’s!), Chicken Tortilla Soup – which I proudly saw my boss eat cold when I brought too much to work one day. I’ve realized that the cooking is actually relaxing and the act of watching other people enjoy the food is similar to writing – I like to see people laugh or smile. Food is not happiness but the smells, tastes and appearance do seem to trigger a serotonin release – or at least I’ve been telling myself that for years when I hit the Peppermint Patties.
So…I have accepted the hospitality challenge. While I tend to be a Hesitant Hostess, we have started inviting people over weekly. I was given an entire set of china (with I swear dishes of five different sizes!) by someone downsizing, so we have actually started using it. I am now vacuuming multiple times a week as opposed to just wondering if the dog hair would eventually make a carpet. I am finally using that Mandoline and “4-in-1 Chopper” that seemed like a phenomenal purchase at 2am. My iron skillet has seen more action this year than in the five years prior. It now has a chip in the red enamel after sitting pristine for the past few years. I’m proud of the chip – it means I actually had to wash it!
I will post some of the recipes (with credit given to the owner!) that I stumble across. Most of the ones that I chose are easy to follow and don’t require any crazy ingredients. I am reminded again of our trip to Ireland – we were given an incredible amount of hospitality and spent time with a different family almost every night. We felt like family.
So….it seems that for those of us that have been given much, much is expected. It’s my turn to make someone else’s evening easier and make them feel like family. My house is not big…I’m not the best decorator…but it’s time to open the doors again. Come along on the journey and feel free to share some recipes with me – I can use all the help I can get!
To get started – Today I made the Blueberry Almond Breakfast Cake from the Slow Roasted Italian. The Serotonin is flowing….