We had a very pleasant Easter – egg dyeing using thrift-store ties on Saturday, church on Sunday morning, neighbors over for Easter dinner, and a very non-Eastery James Bond Skyfall viewing in the evening after a movie and TV-free Lent. For Easter dinner we had:
Glazed ham with homemade mustard sauce
- Cream cheese mashed potatoes
- Asparagus broiled with butter and parmesan cheese
- Shredded carrots in vinaigrette
- Salad with olive oil and balsamic dressing
- Hot rolls with butter (I made my life simpler by using frozen Sister Schubert’s yeast rolls)
- Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (this recipe was fantastic – I doubled the batter, substituted raisins for nuts, and used 1/4 cup applesauce instead of pineapple. I poured the batter into two round cake pans and baked about 25 minutes. The frosting does not need to be doubled)
- Drink options of wine, water, milk, and apple juice (for the kids), followed by coffee with dessert
This was by far the largest number of dishes I’ve ever made for guests. My mother loves to set a beautiful formal table and create elaborate special meals for guests. It’s a gift that she’s perfected into both a hobby and a skill. It took me a few years to realize that following the Biblical command to practice hospitality doesn’t mean I have to follow it in exactly the same way. Everyone has their own hosting style, and what’s fun for her is stressful for me. I love to cook, but the key difference between cooking a meal just for our household vs. for guests is that I’m an introvert. Having guests saps a lot of energy. Having them arrive when I’m already drained from two frenzied hours in the kitchen means I dread their arrival and have a hard time summoning social energy to make them welcome.
Eventually I realized that I needed to create my own style of hospitality – something that would enable us to freely and frequently welcome guests with bounty but simplicity. We set a goal for the number of times we’d like to welcome guests into our home each month, and went from there. Usually I cook a simple but homemade meal that works no matter how crazy the day. Often that means a big pot of soup, a salad, and bread, along with a quick tidy of the kitchen. Sometimes I mentally plan what to serve, then deliberately cut out one dish. More often than not dessert is just chocolates, if anything. The nice thing about a generation raised with terrible fast food and frozen dinners is that guests are delighted to have plentiful home-cooked meals. Once, we knew we wanted to invite a large group of neighbors over. However, the house badly needed a cleaning after busy work weeks for both of us, nd I didn’t have time to cook for that many. Instead, we had an after-dinner ice-cream social on the back porch: I whipped up a pan of brownies, brewed a pot of coffee, and guests made themselves sundaes with brownies, ice cream, and a few no-prep toppings like berries, nuts, and fudge sauce. It was fun and relaxing for guests and hosts alike.
All that to say, a meal like this is not the norm when hosting guests, but it worked. Our neighbors graciously had us over for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners when Carl worked both holidays this year. We wanted to create something truly special, both for Easter and in thanks to them. We prepped everything we could the night before and I wrote out a quick timetable since three different foods needed three different oven temperatures. Once the cold foods were prepared and everything else was boiling and baking I still had time to sit and read with the kids on the couch before guests arrived. After doing the dishes, I think Carl prefers the simpler three-dish dinners though!
What hosting tactics work for your household and personality?
Edited to add: learning to feed guests hasn’t been a perfectly smooth process. There was the episode of greasy ham and too-dry cornbread, the burned soup where we should’ve just ordered a pizza, and a few meals where I didn’t make enough and had to scramble. Practice makes progress.