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Interviews

Conversations About Hospitality – with Abbie

February 9, 2015

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On Monday mornings around here, we talk about issues near and dear to our hearts. In January and February, we are talking about hospitality. Grab a cup of coffee and join in the conversation!

Abby was one of the first people I met in College Station. Before we knew almost anyone, or were completely unpacked, she and her husband and two adorable little girls, who happen to live right down the street, had our family over for dinner. I was so touched by their hospitality, but soon, I realized that this wasn’t an anomaly. Abby and her family regularly (and by regularly, I mean, weekly) have other families or individuals over for a meal. I am continually so inspired by their consistency, their generosity with space that is barely bigger than our own tiny apartment, and the totally unflustered way in which Abby hosts amidst their own busy schedule. I was so excited when Abby agreed to chat on the blog!

What is your favorite kind of event to host?

 I’m very much an extrovert and am fueled when I am surrounded by people and can truly engage in their lives. That being said, I love hosting events that are more casual, like a birthday party or open house of some sort, where I also get to enjoy being part of the crowd and mingling with friends. If I have to spend too much time facilitating food, I don’t get nearly as much satisfaction.

What is the most ambitious event you’ve ever hosted?

My family has a yearly New Year’s Eve tradition of doing a “Good-Sport Breakfast”. A coded food menu is created, with items on the code menu corresponding to a secret real menu. For instance, all of the drinks on our menu were represented by various Christmas carol titles. The menu is complete with drinks, desserts, and utensils.

The guests order blindly from the code menu, not knowing what they’re actually ordering. Then each guest has to be a “Good Sport” and eat whatever shows up, with whatever utensils they blindly ordered. So a person could get cold cereal with no milk, and then have to eat it with a whisk or a potato masher. It provides a lot of fun and really good laughs.

Every year, my mom does this breakfast for hoards of kids, teenagers and family, and I have participated for as many years as I can remember. But this year we were not going to be at my parent’s house. Not wanting to lose the tradition, I decided to host my own. My husband and I invited friends, put together our own menu, introduced the concept to our friends, and served them all. 
It ended up being a much bigger project than I ever imagined, and I spent a good part of the dinner preparing and serving food to our friends, but it was fun sharing a beloved tradition with a new crowd.

What was your favorite hosting experience?

 A couple years ago, I hosted a Christmas party for my husband’s team at work. We had such a fun group of people show up. We did a gift exchange, played “iPod Idol” and enjoyed a great variety of wings and salads. I probably loved hosting that event so much because I didn’t have to worry about the food or budget for the party, I just got to decorate and organize beforehand, then enjoy the fun when it all started.

What is your go-to dish for a crowd?

For an appetizer, I usually default to a cream cheese and chutney cracker dip and for a salad, I love making my 7 Layer Chef Salad. Other than that, I really try to mix things up.

 

What was your biggest hosting mistake?

My biggest mistake was probably trying to do too much for the Good Sport Breakfast. We really didn’t have a chance to sit down and talk much with our friends, and it got pretty overwhelming trying to get all the different dishes out to people in a timely manner. I took for granted all the help my mom has enlisted over the years to make the Good Sport Breakfast happen and thought I could do it all on my own.

What is your hosting “signature”?

I’m not sure I actually have a “signature”, but most often, we host small groups of people, like maybe another couple or two, have snacks or a simple dinner, and play games. With our small apartment, this offers the greatest amount of comfort, while also supplying my extroverted self a chance to enjoy some time with friends.

Why are you motivated to host?

Like I said before, I am fueled when I am surrounded by other people. Hosting gives me the opportunity to reach out to others and plan something fun on my own calendar. With young kids at home, we have a lot going on, but when I am the host or party planner, the events always fit into my schedule.

Any fun hosting plans for 2015?

I’m sure there will be . . . . Nothing big planned yet, but my husband will finish his MBA this year, so there will no doubt be something fun there.

Any tips for those who would like to host more in 2015?

If you haven’t already caught on, I am a no-stress party planner. Events, for the most part, should be fun and enjoyable for ALL parties involved. If you keep it simple and have fun, anyone can host!

Thanks, Abby!

Don’t forget to check out the other conversations in this series with Kathy, Amy, and Emily.

If you need some extra encouragement or inspiration as you entertain others, check out one of the sweetest food memoirs I’ve ever read, Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage.

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