Spontaneous Hospitality: Part III

Our current read aloud book is Laddie, one of my favorite books by Hoosier author Gene Stratton Porter, best known for Girl of the Limberlost. In Laddie I love the picture Mrs. Stratton paints of a large farm family living in post-Civil War Indiana, of the warm relationships between siblings, of the strong faith of both the parents, and the marvelous descriptions of nature along the way. Besides, it’s just a great story combining mystery, romance, and humor. In this passage the main character, “Little Sister”, the youngest of twelve children, describes someone her mother has invited over for dinner after church:

…I believe she was pleased over having been invited to dinner, and as she was a stranger she couldn’t know that mother had what we called the “invitation habit.”

I have seen her ask from fifteen to twenty in one trip down the aisle on Sunday morning. She wanted them to come too; the more who came, the better she liked it. If the hitching rack and barnyard were full on Sunday she just beamed. If the sermon pleased her, she invited more. That morning she was feeling so good she asked seventeen; and as she only had dressed six chickens – third table, backs and ham, for me as usual.

Most of us won’t walk down the aisle of church inviting seventeen people home, but we do want to be able to host unexpected guests (maybe even strangers!). It could be someone your husband brings home, someone you meet at church, or just some friends who need to be wrapped with loving fellowship. If the thought of someone just dropping in on you makes you want to run out the back door, maybe you need a plan. Spontaneity doesn’t always come easily to me. I like to plan ahead, whether it is meals for the coming week or my unit study lessons for next April. So, having a plan for the unexpected is a boon to me and helps take some of the stress out of change.

Here are some ideas:

1. Make a list of your favorite easy to prepare meals. Then keep the ingredients in your pantry and freezer. Some of ours include Bacon Veggie Soup, Parmesan Chicken, Taco Soup, and Sesame Chicken. We almost always have ingredients for these things on hand, and can whip them up, for a variety of sizes of groups, with no pre-planning. Our two stand-by last-minute desserts are brownies and dump cake. (Recipe at the end.)

2. Be ready to stretch meals. It’s usually not too hard to add extra vegetables and starch to stretch something in your crockpot, or you can quickly defrost some more chicken and sauté it before augmenting your main dish. Some things like roasts don’t stretch well, so in that case you can just make extra side dishes and rely on the next idea. (Our family almost never serves large pieces of meat like roasts, so this is not really a problem for us. J)

3. FHB! This is the codeword that a close and very hospitable friend of mine whispers to her family when she is not sure if there is sufficient food for everyone who has shown up that day at her home. FHB = Family Hold Back

4. When you go to church, try to always have the house picked up. This means you need to do this on Saturday. It seems that inevitably when I slack off and leave the kitchen untidy, that’s when we end up inviting someone over spontaneously. But then, that’s probably good for my pride.

5. Remember that food is not the key thing – making people feel welcomed is. You can serve scrambled eggs or pancakes and have a great time of fellowship.

6. Include your guests as you prepare your meal. Help them be part of your family. What a great way to get to know other women as you work alongside them, chatting easily together.

7. Clean your house on a regular schedule. Make an extra effort on Saturdays to tidy up so you will feel free to invite people home on Sunday. Karen Maines (Open Heart, Open Home) says not to clean before guests, but only after they come.

8. And don’t forget to include your guests, spontaneous or otherwise, in your meal preparations. Include them in your family activities. It’s really best that way!

9. A couple of biblical models of spontaneous hospitality are Abram and Abigail. Abram had no trouble inviting three men to dinner, when that didn’t mean pulling some meat and bread out of the freezer, but killing a calf and baking fresh bread. (Gen 18: 1-9ff) Abigail hurries to serve “two hundred [loaves] of bread and two jugs of wine and five sheep already prepared and five measures of roasted grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs.” Fortunately for her and her household, Abigail had the food already stockpiled for the harvest, but she sure pulls it together swiftly to send to David and his men.

OK –here’s our favorite emergency dessert which can bake while you eat whatever you have pulled together for dinner.

Dump Cake
1-2 cans prepared pie filling
1 can crushed pineapple, drained (optional)
1 box cake mix, any flavor that sounds good with the above
1 stick butter, melted

Spray 13x9 pan with oil. Pour in pie filling and/or pineapple. Sprinkle dry cake mix over top. Drizzle butter evenly over the top. Bake at 350 until done. (Sorry – I don’t know how long. Just check it.) Serve with vanilla ice cream.


Terri Wegener said…
Hey Anne. Those are really good things you have posted. Thanks for sharing them.

It is a strange thing that I wonder if others also feel. That when you have people drop in on you in the the middle of your life it makes one feel honored - like they know me well enough and that I've conveyed something to them that they can just drop in unannounced - that I'm not so uptight that I would be flustered by that. I do think alot about what makes a home warm and inviting and it has so very little to do with the furnishings, although they do commuicate, but mostly to do with the people and if they are real about their struggles and if they laugh and enjoy each other therein. And, so I try and make a habit of dropping in on others too and when I sense that they are flustered by a messy house I often just say, "Well, people live here don't they?"

I do like how Christ took the time to prepare fish and bread anticipating hungry and discouraged fishermen coming in after a bad night out where they didn't catch anything and how we can anticipate needs and give people some of the most pleasurable experiences for their senses in a timely way just through food and sensitivity to what is going on in their lives.

What a real privledge we have to share our homes with a watching world, eager for something real. Thanks again for posting. I really enjoyed this and miss you all terribly. Terri
Anne said…
Dear Terri -

Thanks for these great thoughts.

Yes, I agree. We're so far out, that I really feel honored when people show up out here.

I was so happy (and sad, too) to see and talk to you yesterday through Skype. I miss you so much!We're going to have to figure out a way to do that again soon. We thought it would be fun to try when Lizzie is back with you in Dec.

Hind's Feet said…
Anne, What a delightful series of posts. I will again put a link from my sight to your post so that others might benefit from your wisdom.

I had mentioned previously that we had grilled cheese parties which makes for easy prep. But, we also always made sure to have eggs, sausage, bacon and fruit and would invite others over for a big breakfast meal, even though we served it at lunch or dinner. One great way to extend this meal is to fry up loads and load of potatoes and onions, a nice starchy side, but with lots of taste.

What would really be great would be to have the whole Wegener clan show up unexpectedly at a house. Then we would truly be able to host a houseful and enjoy the fellowship! (Plus, we might be able to sing both men's and women's parts to the hymns and choruses.)

Thanks so much!!

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