The Orange Slate

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Conversations about Hospitality – with Emily

February 16, 2015



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

I normally like to jump into the conversation towards the end. So today, here are my own answers to the questions I’ve been asking others about hospitality.

I feel sort of convicted by this interview, because since we had a baby and moved into a much smaller place, Mark and I have hosted much less consistently. Part of it is simple strategics (Our kitchen + living room + dining room = < 400 square feet). Part of it involves the scheduling demands of our current life – my work + Mark’s school + reserve duty weekends keep us scrambling calendars constantly. Part of it is that entertaining and planning with a little one is just harder and less predictable. But Miles is a little bigger (read: more predictable) now and I’m just sort of out of excuses that are not ridiculous. So. More hosting for the McCords on the horizon!

What is your favorite kind of event to host?

Brunch or lunch after church. There is no more low-key event to host (who is stressed out on a weekend morning?), expectations are reasonable, and I just love the idea of hanging out and enjoying company in the middle of a sunny day, when everyone is fresh and relaxed. I also hosted a baking party one time that was so absolutely fun and unique – I definitely would love to do something similar again.

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

Last New Year’s Day, right at the end of my first trimester, I somehow decided it was a great idea to throw a huge New Year’s Day afternoon buffet. I planned the whole thing meticulously, knowing we would be out late the night before, so I did a lot of the cooking in advance. Looking back at the pictures, I’m still not sure when or how I made so much food, but a lot of very dear friend showed up and it was such a fun day (and I remember being really excited by some of my dishes).

What was your favorite hosting experience?

Easter dinner a few years ago. Mark and I were dating and both away from home for the holiday, but various extended family and old family friends were nearby and so Mark and I hosted Eastern dinner at my house, a huge dilapidated old mansion on Capitol Hill. It was such a completely random collection of people and conversation, but it felt so cozy to feel like we all had somewhere to belong that Sunday afternoon and now I have one holiday gathering under my belt.

What is your go-to dish for a crowd?

This is so lazy, but if I am worried about food quantity or the size of the crowd, I make a bowl of pasta salad with tons of fresh colorful tasty additions. It’s easy, it’s healthful, it looks attractive in pretty tableware and it always gets eaten. For dessert, bundt cakes are simple and can feed a big group.

What was your biggest hosting mistake?

Stressing too much ahead of time. It never fails – I spazz while I’m cooking or planning, often venting my emotions in the general direction of Mark who is unfailingly such a good sport; the guests show up and we all have a great time; then when they leave, I wonder why I stressed in the first place. Here’s unsolicited advice that I have to continue reminding myself: no one else notices the things that you as the planner, host(ess), and cook do. If that pre-event stress is preventing you from hosting (and it does hold me back, often!), remind yourself that your hospitality is a gift to others . Your reticence is only preventing others from enjoying the fruits of that gift, not increasing their enjoyment (or yours!).

What is your hosting “signature”?

Taking annoying pictures while everyone is trying to eat, perhaps? I always try to make a meal with others feel special and pretty. Whether the extra touch is fresh flowers, floating candles, cloth napkins, or a pretty dessert, I like the time to feel festive and just a little overdone.

Why are you motivated to host?

In today’s helter-skelter world, community and conversation are such gifts. I want to foster an environment in my home where people feel welcome and where life, learning, and connections happen around the table. Consistent attempts at hospitality are a step in this direction.

Any fun hosting plans for 2015?

Just – more. We’re in a new place this year and I’d love to begin to build new friendships around our table.

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

Start. Just pick up the phone and invite a couple of friends over for a meal which you can comfortably and confidently pull together. Incorporate hosting into your routine (one dinner a month, perhaps) and stick to it, even when life gets messy as it always does. Don’t stress about the details or about your space or about your decorating – hostesses stress about entertaining for more frequently than guests leav .

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