Wednesday, 9 June 2010

We have visitors coming

for lunch today. A friend is over from Melbourne for a few days. She is staying with her sister so both of them are coming. Her sister is an insulin dependent diabetic so I have given the menu even more thought than usual. She has been before and I have eaten there so it is not as difficult as it might be but I am glad I do not need to feed her all the time.
Indeed, I am rather glad we do not often have visitors. My father is not a "have visitors" sort of person and I do not suppose I am either. We would prefer people just called in and had a cup of tea. (I am happy to make endless cups of tea.) We feel the same way about going visiting.
I do not mind my little knitting group coming. They know where everything is in the kitchen. They make their own tea and coffee and bring interesting things to eat. We visit one another in this way. When they are here I can knit in between making sure everyone has what they need. My father enjoys their company but knows that they do not expect him to be there all the time. He can retire to the shed or for his post-prandial nap without any guilt feelings.
We had a neighbour when we first came here who went to endless trouble when she had guests. She spent days planning the menu, setting the table, shopping for, and then preparing the food.
Her dinner parties were formal affairs with candles, shining silver cutlery, crystal glasses and elegant crockery. Ours tend to be very informal. The cutlery is Scandinavian stainless steel, the glassware is not crystal and the crockery pleasant but not of that standard of elegance. I try to cook things I think people will feel comfortable with rather than try anything extraordinary.
I am not sure why we are like this. I think my mother enjoyed entertaining more than we do. She sometimes complained that my father did not like it. His parents did not like it very much.
Family was different. They had relatives in and out all the time. People outside the family were always made genuinely welcome but rarely invited for meals.
I suspect that it had something to do with a long period of poverty for many people in the district in which they lived. My paternal grandparents knew a great many people who simply could not have afforded to return the favour of a meal. They could accept a cup of tea without embarrassment. My grandmother could send them on their way with a jar of marmalade or jam or some fruit from one of the trees. All that was acceptable.
We moved from place to place and did not develop the sort of friendships that involved meals in other people's houses. Now we do not even have a spare bed for guests. Perhaps that is not a good thing but my father is set in his ways. He is not going to change.
That said I know I always need to be prepared because he will always ask about cups of tea and, should it be meal preparation time, I am happy to add extra vegetables to the pot. Entertaining in this way is much more satisfying. It is more like saying, "Nice to see you. Stop for a bit and be part of our family."

4 comments:

Sheep Rustler said...

Pretty much describes the way I love to entertain. Informal, home-style food and table settings, preferably outside, make visitors feel like part of the family. And that's how I prefer to be entertained by others, too. It never has to be something flash, just good company and interesting conversation. Wine helps!

Rachel Fenton said...

Familial entertaining I call it - sounds nicer than informal, and it is :)

catdownunder said...

Well I think they enjoyed themselves. They just left at about 4:50pm!

Donna Hosie said...

Tea, tea and more tea! Very civilised for cats (and penniless writers) I think.