Saturday, October 30, 2010

Honing Hospitality

The tables were set up in the basement and were covered with the longest tablecloth we could find. All of us were there. All 15 of us. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. This was a big deal because it meant that my family had made the trek between two provinces to be at Grandma's house for Christmas. The food was SO good, like always. The chatter around the table was loud and continual. And we all ended the meal significantly more full than we intended. This was good. There was just nothing like my Grandma Mary's turkey, dressing, and gravy.

Nothing like it, except, for my mom's. Her Thanksgivings and Christmases were legendary. Equally long table, at least as many guests, and the flavours and textures just as satifsying as Grandma's. And delicious. And comfortably predictable. My mom would toss the bread crumbs with some of this and some of that, and one more shake of something else until it smelled just like *that*, and I knew that she had reached dressing perfection again for another year. And once, when my grandparents made the inter-provincial trek to our house, my Grandpa gave my mom the best compliment ever: "This is just as good as Mary's". My mom had a couple of tears in her eyes when she told me what Grandpa had said. And now I knew I had two women to match up to. I wanted to cook as well, and host as well, as my Mom and my Grandma. But, boy, was that bar highly raised.

Fast forward to my first year of marriage. There's our one bedroom apartment. There's my squashy little galley kitchen and squashier dining "room" in builder's beige. The table is set just so with all of our pretty wedding gifts and my Mom and Dad are bringing Grandma over to see "Barb and Chris' first home". The budget was pretty slim in those days. What can I serve to these two women who I absolutely adore, and whose opinion of me (and my domestic skills) really, really matters to me? It needs to be something simple, something economical (clearly!), something familiar for Grandma (no Thai or tofu that day), and something that looks fairly foolproof.

I pick the menu. I follow the recipe, and then tweak it so I like it. Main course; side dishes; mom will bring dessert. After ensuring it is all hot at the same time, after making sure there is plenty, after making sure Grandma is comfortable, after making sure we all eat enough, we clear the table, wash the dishes, drink our coffee and have a great visit.

And then.

My Mom and Dad drive Grandma home. As soon as she gets home, Mom calls me. "Honey. I just wanted to tell you what a lovely time we had at your place. You and Chris are doing such a nice job of setting up your home. It was really lovely. But I also want to tell you that Grandma commented on the main course you made. She says she likes how you do it better than how she does it, and could she have your recipe."

I gasp slightly. Before I recover fully, my Mom states the obvious for emphasis, "That's quite the compliment."

Here I was: a young married woman who grew up having dreams of having her own cooking show on TV (really!), and who grew up LOVING the comfy home-life, and appreciating the gift of company, and benefitting from the blessing of hospitality. For me to hear my Grandma ask for my recipe was certainly a great encouragement in the right direction.

Who knew then, mere months into my marriage, that I would be now cooking for 9 people everyday, plus the friends and family that we have the chance to have over on occassion. I thank the Lord for my home, and my family, and for the love of cooking. And for the Mom and Grandma who both set an incredible example, and encouraged me in my pursuit of the same.

It is amazing how one little comment of my Grandma's, likely off the cuff and not intended to be as pivotal as it was, could buoy up my heart and give me such confidence. Sometimes that's all it takes for one moment to direct your story.

The Compassion Blog is inviting you to share your story too. Follow this link to find out all the details. You can also read Shaun Groves' plea for your story, as well as his own story of how a well-time word can change a life. What's your story? Leave a comment below or consider blogging it. If you blog your story please leave a link in the comments here, or on the Compassion Blog, so that we can be encouraged by your tale.


Sarah said...

You are a wonderful cook and always so full of hospitality! :) Oh, and a great writer too! :)

halfpint said...

Glad to get a glimpse into what has partially made you, you! Clearly you have the gift of hospitality. My mother tried to pass some things on to me in her kitchen but I wasn't a willing recipient. I have mainly had to bumble my own way along over the years. I wonder if my girls will be different than me. Yours are on the road to following you I know. I remember you mentioning things they have made. Thanks for all the comments, wow! It was a goldmine for sure.

Helene Bergren said...

Love this story! I come from a line of wonderful women gifted in the kitchen, too. I remember my grandma loving my meatloaf (who knew??) when she came to our first apartment for dinner.

Glad you shared your story through the Compassion site!

Helene Bergren