- Sip and Savor
You don’t have to make a meal to have someone over. No, you don’t. Remember when we were kids? We had play dates. We played dress ups in our mother’s clothes from the 70’s and used scratch paper to pretend we were teachers. We didn’t eat a meal. Occasionally a bowl of popcorn and lemonade from concentrate and on special occasions, Kraft macaroni and cheese, but nothing that involved looking up a recipe.
Invite someone over in between meal times on a weekend or weekday, depending on your schedule. Just offer them what you have in your house as far as hot drinks. If you want to get fancy, break out some special coffee beans or serve homemade hot cocoa with a plate of cookies, or just pick up your friend’s Starbucks order and have it ready when she gets there.
The food is incidental; the relationship is essential.
Cupping your hands around a mug full of a hot beverage adds the needed touch to gab sessions about difficult co-workers, aging parents, and disillusionment with your career prospects as a writer/comedian.
- The Midweek ‘Za
When it comes to hosting a meal at our house, suddenly we pretend that we uphold the rules of hospitality in Victorian England. When we feed our own families, we heat and reheat, throw things together, and heap piles on our plates, but when guests come over, we begin planning three course meals and dishes that require a balsamic reduction on the side and cilantro for a garnish.
We scour the Food Network website for a five star instructions on how to please our guests, but as we do this, we perpetuate the myth that opening our homes requires too much of us. We begin to uphold hosting as a special occasion like Christmas or Easter instead of integrating it into the fabric of our schedules and communities.
I suffer from this disease and when hosting friends, I constantly strive to recreate the wheel, or in this case, the pizza—the panacea for all occasions.
Invite some guests, put a salad and some pizza on the table, see what happens, and then repeat often. Pizza puts us at ease. We pull up squares and watch in awe as the cheese pulls from all sides and inevitably, laughter and banter pursue.
Grab a nice frozen pizza and a salad in a bag OR order it all in OR pickup pizza dough at Trader Joe’s and have guests bring their favorite toppings. OR ignore my plea for casualness altogether and make an artisan pizza from scratch topped with prosciutto and thinly sliced pears, but side effects may include a messy kitchen on a Wednesday night, anxiety for approval, and guests trying to pronounce the word “prosciutto.”
- Friday Cheers
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name but if you socialize like me, that’s not a local watering hole, it’s probably your friend Robin’s living room. This hosting scenario provides perfect boundaries for those wary of hosting commitment.
Invite a few friends, coworkers, or combinations of both over after work. Make it a happy hour, not the main event of the night, but a conduit from the struggles of the workweek to the peace and feasting of the weekend. At lowest commitment, grab a box of PBR or some two buck chuck, depending on your demographic, and make your home a temporary sanctuary from demanding bosses, coworkers who always see you in bad moments, and the stack of things you left for next week.
All of these ideas lend themselves to a sliding scale. Up the fanciness by using your happy hour to test out some new craft beers or make a signature cocktail for the occasion. If you want to outdo yourself, find a mixed drink recipe that calls for ingredients that require asking where an item is located in the grocery store and the zest of a citrus fruit—these are the impressive types.
- Sunday Soup
People rarely want to cook on Sundays. Best-laid plans to whip together the leftover chicken breast and remaining produce quickly get bypassed when any other alternative presents itself.
For church-going folk, going out to eat after church has become an extension of the Eucharist.
Here enters you, offering a free alternative around a much more comfortable table.
Make soup. I love soup. I love the way steam curls and drifts from its surface. I love the way it warms you entirely upon one or two swallows.
I personally have gotten into making soups from scratch, boiling turkey carcasses with bits of carrot, celery, onion, and bay leaf. It builds that pioneer woman complex I constantly grasp at, but there are much easier ways to do this.
Simplest option, just get some pre-made stuff at whole foods or other grocers with tasty options, warm it up, done, instant hospitality.
OR I enjoy using slow cookers on Sunday and the internet is you oyster for slow-cooker soup recipes, especially since everyone has gotten really into cooking and packing away enough meals in your freezer for an end of the world, alien invasion type situation.
When it comes to hosting and cooking, Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist has become my spirit guide of sorts (along with every other woman under 60 who identifies as some type of Christian). I particularly love the lentil soup in that book, as well as the magic white bean soup. AND this book has helped me to be more experimental and fun in my cooking, plopping things in stocks and broths that I think will taste good, and you know what, they usually do taste good!
- Over the Threshold
If all these well-laid plans fail, you must find some way to get others over your threshold. You must become the romanticized groom, carrying your friends like brides into your home at all costs. Otherwise you could become a hermit afraid of coming outdoors, which sounds appealing in winter, but may sort of mess you up, going by examples in children’s movies and fairy tales.
Find an excuse to get someone into your space and interrupt the status quo. Offer your things to be borrowed. When there is a call for an air mattress or a glue gun, volunteer yours. When the person comes to pick the item up, have them step in. Make no excuse for your mess and offer them whatever you have in your cupboard or fridge.
Shout across the street to a neighbor and show them your leaky faucet, ask for their advice and offer them a glass of water. Get a Redbox movie and invite a friend to watch it with you.
If all else fails, get physically stuck in a precarious position somewhere in your house and call someone to rescue you, and then maybe they can stay for dinner.
What I’m trying to say is have someone over. It’s a true and good thing to invite someone in and give to them what you have. Even if it doesn’t seem like enough, I find that God is still regularly performing that loaves and fishes miracle in one way or another.