The Hospitality Habit


Do you get bugged when you make a mistake? The interesting thing about the phrase “practicing hospitality” is that the word “practice” is both noun and verb; it means a habitual action as well as repeating an exercise to improve a skill. So you could say that the practice of hospitality takes practice. Practice by its very nature involves making mistakes. How comfortable are you with that?

Hospitality teaches you to laugh at yourself. Practice it often enough and you’ll have enough material to become a comedian. I could write an entire column about the stray items that have mysteriously wound up in the food: most recently it was a piece of rubber band snipped from a bunch of parsley, making a chewy addition to the caramel cake I’d baked for a friend’s birthday.

Here’s a list of highlights from my history of hospitality hysterics:

  • I’ve forgotten to serve entire courses that I spent hours preparing
  • I burn the garlic toast…..always.
  • I’ve used non-ovenproof platters with disastrous results
  • I’ve set my sleeve on fire while boiling water for tea
  • I’ve scorched the soup but saved it by calling it “smoked chili” 

The question for most of us is: are we willing to let others see our humanness? Here’s the test: do you panic when a guest mistakenly opens your bedroom door while searching for a bathroom? Because you know what an unmade bed says about you, right?   

There’s so much junk that gets in the way of our connecting with others: pride, outward appearances, insecurity – but let’s get real: if we can’t accept our own humanity, how can we ever hope to accept someone else’s? Hospitality (with or without meal preparation) is innate for some but more most of us, must be nurtured. In order for our guests to feel at home, we must be at home – in our houses, in our skills and in our skins.  Practice doesn’t necessarily make “perfect” a given, but it does help you to take it all in stride. The bonus for all that effort is a room full of happy, relaxed, friends. One might even fall asleep on the couch – the ultimate compliment.

THE LAST COURSE: We all worry about “screwing up.” What’s the worst screw-up you can imagine regarding hospitality? Write it down and then ask yourself if you could live with that. Give yourself permission to ‘do it imperfectly.’ HINT:  Life coach Christine Kane encourages reluctant hosts to throw an imperfect dinner party. If this is a stretch for you, start with your kindest friends and let them know in advance.

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