Food. It’s the most basic of human needs. Yet it can also be the most decadent of pleasures. Most find pleasure in food when consumed. Others savor the smells and the presentation. Ambiance drives some while just being in the company of friends and family fulfills others.
What truly motivates me? Entertaining, cooking, and blessing those I care about. Sadly, in life’s craziness I sometimes am too busy or just lazy to do these things. I must stop and remember what is important and what keeps me going. Thus, even my greatest joy I needed to practice, to plan for. In essence, I strive to make hospitality a habit.
My earliest memories are holidays in my grandmother’s and mom’s kitchens. From helping prepare family favorites to carefully selecting the perfect dish for presentation and making sure all the guest felt welcomed and at home. My Missouri Grandma Wanda, my West Virginia Grandma Gigi, and my southern California mom passed on gifts and a desire to emulate hospitality.
Grandma Wanda and Pop Pop traveled from Missouri to Los Angeles during the Depression. She brought with her a Midwestern sensibility with a strong desire for just a dash of elegance. She has always taken great pride in preparing delicious food the way her Oklahoma mother had taught her. I have lovely memories of standing on my stool next to her old white stove carefully observing just how much flour and milk to add to the turkey drippings or when to pull out the serving dishes to warm them on the stove top shelf.
I can still taste the cool water pouring out of the metal cups she gave us to drink as we worked together to put the finishing touches on the Thanksgiving dinner. My love for butler’s pantries also began in her kitchen. I thought it was such a lovely idea to have a whole room just for preparation and staging!
Images of Grandma Wanda’s home prepared for entertaining fill galleries in my mind. Brown ceramic jars with velvet chocolate, vanilla, and butterscotch puddings. Fresh cut flowers from the garden. Gorgeous white lace linens. Gold adorned china. Candle light dancing off the walls. All atop an antique claw foot oak table. I used to wait patiently for each adult to need a new glass of wine just to see Grandma Wanda use her crystal wine decanter with spouts. I thought then, and do now, that it was amazing how even pouring out a drink for guests can be slightly magical and special.
I did not have as much time with Grandma Gigi as I would have liked. The time I did spend with her proved she was larger than life! Growing up one of 8 children to a West Virginia coal miner, my grandmother became a WWII WAVE, a Navy wife, and Los Angeles hostess. She knew not only how to enjoy life but how to make it elegant on a budget!
Memories of my time with Grandma Gigi have stayed with me as well. Sitting on her luscious gold and white brocade couch made me feel like a Hollywood starlet. Smelling the gardenias and honeysuckle wafting in from the garden as she set her modern table for chicken and dumplings with a yogurt pie for dessert. Grandma and Grandpa spent their adult lives in Los Angeles during the golden era and up until the end they would have a gin martini, extra dry, before dinner. Grandma Gigi made every meal at her table feel like a fashionable party.
My mother gave me the love and appreciation of ambiance. Cream of wheat and oatmeal served with her sterling silver on any given school day. Crystal goblets for sparkling cider or water. Tea parties with her real china teapots and cups. She would always say why wait for a special occasion, every day is special! I couldn’t agree more. To this day my mom will set out chips and crackers on a lovely platter or, more commonly, chips, salsa, and guacamole on the back patio. It’s amazing how that little extra time to pull out her cheese board or a nice serving bowl makes others feel special, cared for.
These three women have inspired how I approach life and have illuminated how I entertain. It can be me having diner and watching a movie or entertaining several guests in my home. The lessons they have taught me about hospitality have become a habit for me. From the day I rented my first apartment I try to eat my dinner on real plates with real glasses at the dining room table. I invite friends over, even if I order take-out, and set a nice table. I bring food to friends. The point is, make your own traditions of elegance and hospitality. Work them into your every week and eventually your every day. This is one habit you won’t want to kick (although when you are successful you may have to kick your guests out so you can sleep!).
I hope you decide to take this journey with me. I will share fun favorites and discover new ones along with you. I want this blog to be an extension of my home, a way to share my love of hospitality with all of you.