October 21, 2010

Hints on Hospitality

I've learned hospitality by watching others. I've found that by working at it--practicing my cooking, making it a habit to open my home, thinking about how I can bless people, and copying what I've enjoyed about being in other people's homes--it's become something I truly enjoy.

Here's what I've learned from others who have extended hospitality to me:
  • Perfect a signature dish. My grandmother, Mary Jean Fleming, is the best cook I've ever known. Everything she puts on the table is delicious, but when our family visits her, she always cooks her signature meal: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, rolls, and pecan pie with Bluebell ice cream on the side. Here's my little secret: the first time people come to my house for dinner, they get my signature "first timer" meal. I know it by heart, it's easy to put together, I don't have to figure out what I'm going to make, and I've gotten pretty good at it. 
  • Pay attention to what your family and friends like. After a few weeks of community group at my friend Melanie's house, I noticed that she always had a snack I enjoy, red and yellow bell peppers and hummus. Somewhere along the way, I must have mentioned my favorite foods. Although I didn't remember saying it, Melanie took note and served something she knew would bless me. 
  • Keep things on hand. My friend Sherrie doesn't drink soft drinks or coffee, but she keeps both in her house because she knows others do and she wants to be able to offer them when she's hosting people in her home. 
  • Have an appetizer. My friend Jennifer is an excellent hostess. For one thing, she thinks of great excuses to have a party. Second, she is a gourmet cook. But the best part is that it's an experience. She is often cooking when her guests arrive, but she sets out multiple appetizers so we can munch while we talk.
Here are my hints:
  • Turn on lights. Lights make your home warm, welcoming, and cozy.
  • Think about the temperature. If you are having a large crowd over, make sure you turn down the air conditioner or, if it's winter, crack a few windows. 
  • Take the lead. You don't want to be bossy, but you'll need to guide your guests. They will be hesitant, wanting to fit into your family's traditions and routines.
So are you ready? Have someone over this weekend! Here's what you can make:

Mom's Mexican Chicken Cheese Soup
1 large can chicken breast (cut up into small pieces)
1 can Rotel tomatoes
8 oz Velveeta Mexican cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp cumin
1 can green enchilada sauce
3/4 tsp cilantro
1 can of chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can nacho soup
1 large can evaporated milk
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a large saucepan. Heat on low and stir often so the cheese won't burn. After the ingredients have heated through, add chicken. Serve with tortilla chips.