When I moved to a new house some years ago, a neighbor came by with a beautiful glass jar filled with a blend of tea and juice crystals she dubbed, “Friendship Tea.” I was so touched I wept on the spot. It was a special moment between us. She was the first one in my new neighborhood to welcome me.
I’ve also learned about homespun hospitality from people who clearly have the gift. The Carters of San Diego, for example, host a come-as-you-are vegetarian potluck supper the first Saturday night of the month. Guests spread the table with food and beverages, eat together, then enjoy an evening of companionship.
Chuck and Marita Noone of Albuquerque, New Mexico share spur-of-the-moment dinners with friends and neighbors. “We don’t always have an entire evening to spare,” says Marita, “but we have enough time to eat together and enjoy some conversation over a simple meal.”
Scented candles, pretty napkins, sparkling glasses, intimate lighting, and polished silverware can make even the simplest fare seem like a feast.
Some years ago on the other side of the world, I learned another dimension of hospitality. While in Morocco visiting my daughter and son-in-law who were there on a teaching assignment, I was introduced to the Moroccan custom of ‘afternoon visits.’ Each day about 4:00 Julie and I would either call on neighbors and friends or open her home to them. No advanced planning was necessary. It was simply the thing to do.
I returned home wishing we had such a ritual in the United States. I missed the cozy chats, the warm sweet tea served in small glass containers trimmed in gold, the welcome break after a long day. But after a few weeks I was back to my routine and didn’t think about afternoon visits or hot sugared tea again–until sometime later when a friend invited me for lunch for my birthday.
She prepared foods that were new to me: lentil soup, sea vegetables with grated carrot, brown rice and twig tea (yes, twig as in tree)! I went home nourished by her meal, her friendship, her kind gesture, and recommitted to recovering the lost art of hospitality for myself.
Today when I think of ways to do something for someone else, as well as for myself, I like to choose an action that will nourish both body and spirit. Food is a wonderful means to achieve both. And it doesn’t have to take half a day or more to make it happen.
Vegetable soup and homemade applesauce are two of my favorite dishes. Both are simple, warming, and festive. During the winter, especially, I prepare meals that include both. Add steamed rice, hot multi-grain bread, herbed green olives, and hot tea and we have a nourishing meal in less than an hour. Invite good friends to join us and we’ve created an evening of homespun hospitality and joy-filled moments.