In middle school, I did not seem to understand the importance of being a hostess at holiday and family dinners. My mind only wondered as far as when the desserts would be served. However, I find myself hearing the voices of the southern hostesses I grew up around whether it be Thanksgiving or just inviting friends over for pizza. Here are just a few things that any hostess in training has heard when entertaining guests.
1. “Did you ask everyone what they wanted to drink?”
My mother is a professional when it comes to making everyone feel as though our home is their home. I used to get so irritated when my mother would strongly encourage me to offer our guests something to drink the second they walked in our front door. Again, middle school me could not understand the importance of making sure someone had a glass of tea or water in their hand before they ever sat down. The older I get I understand that that was one of the first of many ways to make others feel at home the second they walk through the door.
2. “Help me set the table.”
At first, I thought that helping my mother or grandmothers with Christmas and Thanksgiving meals were pretty straightforward. You cook the food, you serve it, and people tell stories. Right? Wrong. The entire day was filled with what kinds of flowers would go on the table. Where the glasses went and having to remember what side the fork and the knife went on was like a science I was so unfamiliar with. Nevertheless the hostesses in my life glided around the table with ease and grace. Mom, your table is always top notch!
3. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
This question is crucial. I could never understand why I had to ask my mom if there was anything I could help her with knowing that she had it all under control (or at least she appeared to). My mother made it a point to teach me that asking is always a polite gesture. Even if your help is not needed at that moment in time, offering a hand will help the course of the lunch/dinner run smoothly.
4. “What can I bring?”
If there is one thing my mom taught me about attending a dinner, lunch, shower or any other occasion at someone else’s home it is that you do not show up empty handed. Showing up with a dip for an appetizer, an extra pitcher of lemonade or sweet tea, or even something as simple as napkins is both helpful to the hostess and a sign of gratitude for being welcomed into their home. Even if the response to this question is “I don’t need you to bring anything.”, you still do not show up empty handed. Cut a flower from your yard, bring cocktail napkins; get creative!
5. “God is great. God is good…”
Saying the blessing is not just confined to homes in the South. However, returning thanks before a fork hits the plate is a responsibility that the hostess would either take upon herself, or it was assigned to an older member of the family. At every gathering, there is something special about gathering around with family and friends to return thanks for not only the food, but also for fellowship and the blessings that we overlook daily. A circle around a table of food is a powerful thing, and as I have gotten older, I have realized just how thankful I am for mine.