I mused about imperfect hospitality about a week ago and shared how it is so easy for me to come up with a list of excuses why it would be easier or better to avoid having people into our home. I talked about why I've decided it is important despite my shortcomings and how our family fits guests into an already full schedule.
Today I want to take a few paragraphs to address one of my biggest hang-ups:
How am I going to feed these people?
The food itself can be a big concern when you are pinching pennies (me!) or when you don't feel like a good cook (me, again!). I've found in most instances, guests want to help contribute to the meal so no one person is responsible for the cost or the planning. We hosted lunch guests this summer and ate simple dripped beef sandwiches with potatoes and a bowl of watermelon. One family brought tomatoes from their garden to slice and another brought a pan of brownies.
We had friends for dinner the day my water broke with Macie, too. (What an adventure! You can read more about that here!) That day I made ham and poppy seed sandwiches and our friends brought a fruit salad, and we ate before I headed to the hospital!
Another time we invited over friends with small kids so each family made two pizzas with a variety of toppings. (I have a trick or two for baking pizza at home.) We baked all the pizzas in our oven and paired pizza slices with a big salad.
At the beginning of this month, friends came for dinner on a school night so I simmered a pot of chicken and rice soup in the afternoon and made a pan of garlic and herb flat bread (a non-dairy variation of this recipe, using olive oil). One guest brought a salad and another assembled dessert and baked it in our oven after she arrived.
We've also hosted people and served only snack foods. I had a ladies' game party and offered desserts. Ben invited friends over on his birthday morning and had donuts.
I served a walking taco bar to a group of hungry kids and teenagers.
Feeding a crowd does not have to be expensive. I employ a few go-to recipes that I am confident taste good and I use them over and over. (There are lots of food ideas on my blog if you dig into the recipe archives.)
Setting the table
Our dining room table holds eight and there are eight of us. Macie uses a high chair so that only leaves one extra seat at the table. Our solution is to serve the meal buffet style from the counter. Usually the kids claim the seats at the table (often squishing in more than eight!), and the adults eat at the living room coffee table or on their laps. Other times we switch it up and let the adults enjoy the table. Once we borrowed a folding table and a few chairs so all sixteen people could score a spot at the table.
And you know what? If none of those ideas appeal, inviting just one person to fill that one empty spot at the table is still hospitality!
What about the plates and glasses and silverware for extra people? I bought an inexpensive set of white plates to supplement the dishes I already have. I use mix-and-match bowls and glasses, too. Nothing is a perfect match, but it all coordinates. Sometimes it is easier to use paper plates and plastic utensils. That is more than okay. Plus it eliminates the need to wash dishes when my guests go home
It doesn't have to be about food!
I always assume that hospitality equals feeding people, but if my goal is relationship, being together is more important than what we put in our mouths. One spring we invited three other families over to dye Easter eggs with us.
Other times we've had people over just to talk and visit, or to take a walk.
...which leads to the next topic...
Who should I invite and what do we talk about?