Dinner at Home….with Friends

I had observed, recently, that eating in with friends is a ‘dying art’. Going out is much more common, it seems.  Often times going out is easier: no cleaning, no prep, no dishes to clean after. You drive somewhere, meet, eat, and then leave. Everyone one individual tastes or dietary needs so this way every one walks away with something they liked. Dishes can be discussed and shared. And that’s great. But…something, in my brain, has been lost too.

After IMTX Carlos and I had dinner at a friends’ home. My friend offered going out or eating in at her and her spouses home. I noted to my friend that eating in is becoming a lost art, so if she was game, I’d love to go to her home.

Note – I DO come with some baggage as I am vegetarian. I always offer to bring my own protein: cottage cheese and/or beans. Quick to throw on anything and…easy. And you know what – dinner was relaxed, fun and…great.

Carlos and I decided to return the dinner on July 4. I realized we had lived in our home over 1 year at that point, and had yet to invite anyone over. Wow?! We had eaten out with friends, but not in.

And here is where I say, eating out is easier., and not just for reasons stated above. Also, you are putting yourself (or at least in my mind) out there for judgment: your eating preferences (which can border on near religion for some), your cooking skills, cooking style, your place settings, your meal habits – everything! You are opening your home up for others to observe. Often times it is just easier to eliminate that personal aspect, and go to a restaurant. It seems less open to judgement. But you know what? I was game.

When I have invited people over in the past I do what I usually do: use a general guideline for a recipe, have lots of veggies, and semi wing-it. Carlos has gotten used to this, and knows it is rare he will ever have the same recipe twice.

But back to our first time to have friends over in our “New” (> 1 year) home.
So, as usual, I decided to try something new. Luckily, having spoken with my friend a few times, I had a general idea of their likes and dislikes and dietary needs. And having been to her home for dinner, I could mimic some of what she did. I also tried something new:. I made a roast! In the crock pot!

Now this is huge as I have tried this before and it has come out dry. In short…I failed to make something in the crock pot! yes – I have had many people, men and women, look at me in surprise that I have burned something in…a …crock pot. It’s a skill. What can I say?

Also, since Carlos is the only meat eater in our home, I don’t cook large roasts often. It’s just too much food for one. So…this was an adventure. I let her know, and warned her that we have Mellow Mushroom on speed dial, just in case. And Carlos could run get a pizza (or 2) for the four of us! SOur friends were game! And you know what? The roast came out very well. Or so they told me. In fact, Carlos wants me to invite them over again so he can enjoy the left overs of more such roasts!

The evening was fun and relaxed. No waiters. No maître de. No individual meals. We had veggies and homemade hummus to munch on while I finished things up in the kitchen. And then sat down at the table family style. A relaxed evening. And it was good. Or so I think. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I have many ideas stirring in my head and recipes I want to try!

It was right after this meal I found the article on Scruffy hospitality. And I loved it. It embodies what I felt. There is a sense of community when you invite people to your home. There is a sense of coming together vs. keeping people out of your personal space – your home. And it feels so good!

After that I actually reached out to a friend and literally invited her for leftovers. And she accepted! Scruffy hospitality for the win! She came, and then said something that I should have known…probably did know, but didn’t put 2 and 2 together to get 4: she doesn’t eat meat from animals with 4 legs. Meaning my roast was not going to be eaten by her.

You know what? No problem. I looked at her and said “Well, an omelet it is!” and whipped one up. I am not sure how good it was, but she ate it (she’s a very good friend). And, again, Mellow Mushroom was on speed dial! And the conversation was good…if mostly between Carlos and my friend…about education.

My laissez faire reaction to preferences may come in part from my up-bringing – my mom didn’t make us eat what she fixed. She always cut veggies up large enough to be picked out. And if we really didn’t like it, we all knew how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That may make my mom sound mean but, she was smart. She made good meals. And if we didn’t like it, she wasn’t going to cater to us, but wasn’t going to force us to eat what she made either. It was our choice. We learned.

Now, don’t get me wrong. She still remembers all of our favorites. And at holiday meals I can guarantee you my brother gets mashed potatoes, my sister gets cranberry relish, and I get (vegetarian) stuffing. And despite my saying I am fine with cottage cheese, she makes sure I have a good protein source at all meals when home. My mom is fabulous. But also, she never got her knickers in a knot if we didn’t like something. And I carry that forward.
Maybe it’s that outlook that makes scruffy hospitality so easy and natural for me. I want to know your likes and dislikes. I will cater to them. But if I make a mistake or you pick out a veggie, there is always a plan b! And that’s fine!

Long story short – I am rebelling. I am over eating out, and fearing judgment. A friend is a friend. End of story. I am all in for relaxed meals with friends, and focusing in on conversation and time together.

I plan to keep inviting friends over for dinner when things are less than perfect. Just a meal. Maybe even invite a few friends and make it a potluck! Or find a friend willing to try cooking together! It really is a fun experience. I’ve done it occasionally and…I enjoy.

Who knows what will happen? I do know, no one will judge if me if there are dust bunnies. Or our furniture isn’t matched. Or our throw isn’t folded correctly on the back of our couch. Or if the meat is a little over cooked. Or if pizza was served instead. Ok…they will remember that but…that’s a good memory! They will remember the food and conversation. And a relaxed evening.

And if I invite you over know that Mellow Mushroom is always on speed dial because, I will play in the kitchen before you come over (and some while you are waiting), and it just may not come out all right! But as long as you are OK with that, we will get along just fine!

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