LIFE GOAL: Fearless Hosting … A Dinner Party for Your Nearest and Dearest.
I want to inspire my generation to reclaim the welcoming, generous warmth of our grandmothers, mothers and aunts. Whether it was popsicles for kids, coffee for mom or a Thanksgiving meal for the extended family of 30, it was normal and encouraged to host family and friends.
In our age of InstaPot pressure cookers, we need to take the pressure off what it means to host. We need to accept that we don’t all cook like Gordon Ramsey and all our houses and tablescapes will not be Southern Living magazine worthy. However, this is not a valid reason to miss out on all the good that comes from sharing a meal with family and friends. Opening up our hearts and homes to hospitality is a way to grow in virtue and embrace grace that comes in the ordinary moments of eating dinner among family and friends, new and old!
Look at how often in Scripture Jesus taught while gathered around a table. Do you think those table settings would be something Joanna Gaines would use (even for as much as she loves benches and rustic inspired design)? Do you think those recipes would make it onto a Michelin Star restaurant menu? Who cares? Why have those stories been preserved for all of human history in Scripture? Because on the most natural level, God’s creatures require nourishment. Even when Jesus came to earth in the humble form of man, he gave us the Eucharist to sustain us. It all goes back to food. And loving through food. Who cares what kind of food! If cooking makes you nervous, order pizza. Everybody loves pizza.
The point is to strive for a generous heart that welcomes people to human interaction in a warm environment where, as a community, everyone can grow in virtue.
We live in a very detached, virtual age, so the tangible reality of being among people, experiencing the same smells and tastes will build you as a community. It’s biblical — man was not meant to live alone (cf. Gn 2:18). That’s why God created Eve. That’s why religious orders live in community, even though they are not married. That’s why the church starts with the family — a natural community.
With all this in mind, I challenge my generation and all you readers to host a dinner party at your home this autumn! I did and have shared a simple dinner menu that you are more than welcome to use. Happy hosting!
Autumn Inspired Charcuterie and Cheese Board
Cheeses: Manchengo, Aged Cheddar and Goat
Leave the cheeses in block form. Make sure you have a separate knife for each block.
Charcuterie: Hard Salami and Soft Prosciutto
Mix textures and flavors; hence a hard and soft option. I prefer to slice the hard salami into pieces that are easy to pick up.
Fruits: Apples, Pears, Grapes and Pomegranate Seeds
Spreads: Apple Cranberry Chutney, Jalapeno Fig Jam and Honey
Have fun with different flavors — go sweet, go spicy!
Breads: Soft French Bread, Whole Grain Loaf and Breadsticks
You want the bread to be soft enough to pull apart, but a little warm.
Extras: Nuts and Olives
Pick whatever nuts and olives you think your guests will enjoy.
Beef Stew Served In Pumpkins and Gourds
Pick your favorite fall beef stew recipe filled with root vegetables!
While the stew is cooking, cut the tops off the small pumpkins and gourds so they can be used as lids. Place them on a baking sheet and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
When the stew is 45 min from being done, spoon the stew into the pumpkins and gourds and cover with the lids. Place in oven for 45-60 minutes.
With oven mitts, move the pumpkins and gourds from the baking sheet to serving plates. (Mine shown here in regular bowls if you cannot obtain pumpkins.) Serve with warm crusty bread or your favorite cornbread. Enjoy!
Slow Cooker Spiced Hot Apple Cider
4 cups Apple Cider
1 Apple cut into slices
1 Orange cut into slices
3 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
Add all ingredients to a large pot or crockpot. Bring to a simmer and cover for 10-15 minutes. Serve.
The best centerpieces and table settings come from what you already have around you! I especially love using sticks, leaves and greenery that I can easily find in my yard or on the nearby greenway. Throw a variety of what you find outside in different sized vases. Place them along the center of the table and fill in with the greenery, leaves, pinecones or anything else you have around the house and yard. The wood chargers I used came from a fallen tree in my sister’s yard that my brother-in- law cut into pieces. Get creative and try out different things!
Photos by Anne Puetzer