Hospitality Successes

Because I’m such a perfectionist, I’ve never been comfortable with last-minute entertaining. If people stop by unexpectedly, I’m usually paranoid about stuff like, “Did I remember to clean the toilet?” or “Did I leave panties lying on the bedroom floor?” And since I’m used to cooking for two, and since I plan my menus ahead of time and shop accordingly, my husband’s look that asks, “Could we have them stay for dinner?” is usually met with a hissed, “No, there’s not enough food!”

In my quest to remember that hospitable means “given to generous and cordial reception of guests,” I am trying to get better at spur-of-the-moment events.

I feel pretty good about two recent experiences on this front.

We know a couple named Eric and Jennifer. They were friends of ours when we lived in Oklahoma a couple years ago, and I remember the first time we invited them over. It was a casual Sunday lunch – I should have made something like burgers and fries. But no, I spent HOURS making these elaborate chicken breasts stuffed with some sort of lemon-olive mixture and several obscure vegetable dishes on the side. When I served the plates, they weren’t so much impressed as…puzzled. At how to actually eat this stuff. Or maybe even what it WAS, exactly. When they said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble!” I knew not to take it as a compliment.

Anyway, jump forward to a few weeks ago. They recently moved to Rhode Island, so we’ve reconnected with them. Late one Sunday afternoon, they stopped by our apartment for a few minutes. Everything was a mess, and I didn’t have much food around, but when Matthew signaled, “Can I invite them for dinner?” I said, “Sure.” I made spaghetti, hoping it would stretch four ways, and Jennifer buttered and garlicked a loaf of bread while I made a salad with whatever was in the crisper drawer. We shoved all the junk off the table and sat down to a fun, relaxing meal.

Then there’s Bobby and Jacqui, a couple we recently met. I’d been wanting to invite them over for dinner, so I finally emailed Jacqui on a Friday. I asked if Monday would be good for them, knowing it was the only night we had open for a long time. I didn’t know that she only checks her email once a week, so when I didn’t hear from her over the weekend, I figured it wouldn’t work out, so I didn’t prepare anything. Then on Monday, I had an email reply from her saying, “Yeah, today would be great!” Surprise! Oh, and then there was the postscript: “Bobby is on a strict no-carb diet…I hate to inconvenience you, but would it be possible for you to make something with no carbs?”

Matthew and I have never met a carb we didn’t like…so I quickly emailed a friend who had just started South Beach and begged her for a recipe. I ran to the grocery store on the way home from work then straightened up the house and threw dinner together (thank GOODNESS they were late!). They loved the Southwest stir-fry and fresh salsa, and we really enjoyed getting to know each other. They didn’t leave until after midnight! I’d say that means they felt “generously and cordially welcomed.”

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  • jlc2you

    Becky!  I didn’t get a chance to say congrats on the great news from the Doc.  Definately a miracle!  I also wanted to tell you that I just got an email from Eric from our mentoring group way back when.  She’s finishing up school and coming back to the states in a few months.  How crazy is that!  She said she was excited to hear that you were pregnant (how she found out in the Middle East I have no idea).  Thought you’d like the info!  I sent her a link to your xanga site to see your little one’s pitures, so hopefully she’ll drop by.

  • Abbas_princess

    No, I think it’s in ‘your’ voice.  When people drop around unexpectedly, my firt thought is “gee I hope the kids flushed the toilet”   That and, “gosh I wish I had tidied up”.  I’m getting more and more decided that if people want to see me, they won’t care how the house looks, so they can come on in.  If they came to see my house… they can make an appointment. *grin*  Though, I am working on having the house tidy more.  It’s difficult… cleaning is NOT my most favourite past time.  Especially considering I don’t really notice it much.  My idea of Untidy and Complete Mess are probably alot broader than other peoples way of thinking.

  • mmmattress

    I have never met a carb I didn’t like. Or immediately consume.

  • hannahbarton

    “At how to actually eat this stuff” should be “As to.”

    This is such a great post. I’m so glad you’re willing to share your good AND bad experiences. They are all so humorous.

  • simply_nikki

    Yep, this is totally your voice, and aside from a couple of sentences a little awkward to read, I don’t think I would change anything, because it *is* your voice and not too formal for a blog and very to-the-point. The two sentences are:

    “And since I’m used to cooking for two, and since I plan my menus ahead of time and shop accordingly, my husband’s look that asks, ‘Could we have them stay for dinner?’ is usually met with a hissed, ‘No, there’s not enough food!’”

    “When I served the plates, they weren’t so much impressed as…puzzled. At how to actually eat this stuff. Or maybe even what it WAS, exactly.”

    I would change the structure of the first sentence and the punctuation of the second to make them flow more easily, such as

    “I’m used to cooking for two, planning my menus ahead of time and shopping accordingly, so that when I am met with my husband’s look that asks, ‘Could we have them stay for dinner?’ my response is usually a hissed, ‘No, there’s not enough food!’”

    “When I served the plates, they weren’t so much impressed as … puzzled – at how to actually eat this stuff, or maybe even what it WAS, exactly.”

    Side notes: I would eat chicken and vegetables with a fork and knife. Lol. I think the couple was probably just a little intimidated by your cooking prowess!

    I hope FLYlady gets me to a point like that. But this morning I am sick and someone came to the door while I was in my pj’s of course! By the time I got semi-dressed, they had left! My neighbors always seem to come over when I am not at the top of my game. :P

    RYC: Maybe that was cheating, but I like to eat cheese with grapes as a snack, so I put it in the category of garlic on bread. Maybe that was a stretch. Lol. I won’t be offended; it’s not your style. I just tagged my four most regular readers.

  • jlc2you

    Opps!  Erin!

  • whomhavei

    You should let me be the designated host for when you have people over this summer.  I would have served them bread, cheese spread, and cool-aid.  And made fun of Bobby for eating like a nancy boy.  Then let them entertain themselves while I watched Scrubs.  On second thought, maybe I should just live upstairs.

  • miller_schloss

    Zach – Bobby is the one who challenged Matthew to the weight loss contest. As Bobby has successfully lost over 50 pounds since Christmas, I wouldn’t call his diet “nancy.” Oh, and by the way, your father is currently on the same diet.

  • Liosliath

    I liked it overall – but I did think that your third-to-last paragraph could have used a stronger ending. Perhaps concluding the effort was more of a success? My two cents.

  • Lydrock

    great stories!! I really enjoyed it.

    also, the ann coulter thing was awesome :-)

  • daniellehanley

    I liked it. Definintely sounds like your voice. It’s not too long or formal. I think Nikki’s suggestion on the punctuation is good, but otherwise I wouldn’t change much.

  • karlitacat

    Sounds natural enough to me!  Probably because it involves perfecting yourself in some way – hehe. :)  

    I’m on a budget, so I tend to only buy certain items, and even then ones that are on sale (I always get meat buy 1 get 1 free, $1 items, etc.).  Sometimes I plan meals ahead of time, sometimes the morning of, and sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to make because I haven’t felt like thinking and strategizing.  Then there are those evenings when you just want to do Chinese takeout!  Sometimes I cook extra so there will be leftovers either for another dinner, or for Philip to take to work the next day… but I’m not going to cook for multiple people every evening in the off-chance that someone might stop by!  That’s silly. 

    I think it can be fun planning elaborate, gourmet meals.  But I’ve also read that you should keep certain things on hand just in CASE people stop by; preferably things that slap together quickly.  I mostly pay attention to this in relation to dessert – fancying up a store-bought cake so it looks homemade, for instance.  Last time I was at Border’s, I looked at this book, something like semi-homemade (I’ll see if I can find it and send you the link).  Forget the exact title, but it’s about using few ingredients or boxed/packaged items and turning it into something wonderful. 

  • Marciaran

    Geez Becky. That post was so very you. So very not like me. I guess I should be inspired rather than feel inadequate. I think your attitude is great. Bill and I would have always been more likely to say sure, stay for dinner, we’re ordering pizza, and since we can’t afford it, we’d slap it on a credit card. I am very unsure of myself cooking for other people, though I have had a few good experiences and that’s helped. But in general I don’t cook, and don’t like to cook, so that doesn’t help matters.

  • whomhavei

    it’s still eating like a ninny.  And maybe only serving him bread, cheese spread (from an MRE) and watered down cool-aid would help.

  • karlitacat
  • italygrrrl

    What size shoes do you wear?  I could you send you mind from the swimsuit and/or interview portion.  They’re the nude pumps that you can wear with anything to make your legs look longer.  I can sell them for cheaper than you can buy them, I bet!

  • whomhavei

    if italygrrrl sold them to Becky, I would guess that she couldn’t sell them for cheaper than Becky could buy them.  I bet that she would sell them for the same price that Becky would buy them for.  But my economics theory skills could be off.

  • curlybecca

    That reminds me of the KILLER Reuben sandwiches you and Matthew made me once. Yum! (In Northern terms, they were “wicked”!)

  • trinisity

    I disagree with everyone, I don’t really think it was your voice, well not the one that you normally write with. You usual have this good girl edge to your writing, even when you are talking about homeschooling. It’s that edge that makes your goody-two-shoeness so enjoyable to read. This seemed to lack that edge to me. Also it didn’t finsh strong to me. I was expecting a funny little punch line at the end or a strong point as to why you were writing what you were writing. That’s it! I can normally tell why you are writing something, this felt like something you had to write, and that the point was that you had to write it.

    I’m sorry to be so harsh, I normally enjoy reading what you write even when I disagree.

  • semajski

    Great, I can’t wait to get there and have y’all practice hospitality on me! Do you have a menu or something I order from? hehe. :)

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