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.”
- The Dinner Party That Wasn’t
- Dinner at the Hampson Estate / Using Serving Trays
- How to Annoy Your Introverted, Task-Oriented Wife