A place at our table
Entertaining family and friends at home is one of the greatest joys in my life. I like to cook and bake. It’s fun to try new recipes, modify them or create variations. For holidays or special occasions, I love hosting nice gatherings, from menu planning to decorating, to sending guests off with carefully packaged goodies. I’m no Martha Stewart. If I had to choose, my style would be more similar to that of Ina Garten.
Our schedules have been a lot more hectic in recent months. Some weeks, there’s an event every evening. Sure, we see lots people at various functions, but conversations are often rushed. I haven’t seen my best girlfriends very much. TJ and Ty are still waiting for me to go fishing with them. The vegetable beds are not doing nearly as well as they were last summer. It seems I need a vacation just to catch up on LIFE. Consequently, we have not invited friends over as often as we once did.
My Singaporean friend, Karen, had received a care package from home during Chinese New Year. She knew I love quite a few of the items she received, so she and her husband graciously invited TJ and me for dinner in their beautiful condo in downtown Seattle. Bruce, who is a sake expert, gave us a sake 101 lesson, and we tasted several wonderful sake he had just brought back from Japan. Karen made dinner with abalone from Singapore, braised meat, and an assortment of her homemade chili sauce. She even put a whole container of spicy shrimp rolls in our take-home bag of goodies because she saw how much TJ enjoyed them. We were touched. We could have dined out at a fancy restaurant, but the experience would not be nearly as memorable.
I’ve been thinking about all this lately: the sheer joy of being in good company, the sharing of good food, and the need to deepen connections. The food and the atmosphere play a large role in these friendly gatherings, but perhaps I’ve focused too much on them. It’s time to take it to the next level, and I don’t mean adding to the selections on the cheese platter. 🙂
A few weeks ago, we started inviting 1 or 2 friends over for dinner on week nights. I had some initial anxiety about it because our friends might see a pile of unfolded clean laundry in the family room, or a blob of liquid hand soap by the sink in the powder room. The pillows on the couch may be covered with cat hair. There may not be the perfect bottle of wine in the house, either. But good friends wouldn’t mind all that. When we invite friends over on a regular day, we’re sharing a slice of our everyday life. We want our friends to come as they are, even if they’ve had a rough day at work and need to vent. We can learn about each other as people, not avatars or profiles. I could be making a humble stirfry of shredded carrots and Taiwanese cabbage with garlic, or a big pot of curry with chicken. These are dishes that come with very fond memories, and offering them to good friends means a lot to me.
I hope our friends always feel welcome in our home and leave with a good feeling. Not because we serve up a perfect prime rib (which, by the way, is always a bonus) or great cocktails (though that never hurts), but because we’re sharing what is the best and the dearest to us. There’s always room for another place setting or two at our table.
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Tags: cooking, family, friends, home, Joy, Life