What is the difference between entertaining and hospitality?

I received a book to review on this blog a few months ago that I was actually pretty excited about. It was talking about entertaining for people who didn’t really like to entertain or didn’t feel like they knew how. And I thought, that’s for me! I’m not a detail person. I find it hard to put on a party, because when people come I get so caught up in talking to them I forget about little things like oven timers and when food has to be turned on.

So I thought: this can help organize me!

Instead it just depressed me. It was all about how to make your home beautiful, and how to do gorgeous place settings, and how to make canapes. I’m never going to make canapes.

Now maybe you have the gift of entertaining, and you find this sort of thing fun. But what I find fun is having a pile of people over, serving something easy like chicken fajitas with lots of fixings, and then eating wherever you can find a chair while you talk nonstop, and then playing board games afterwards while the kids scatter.

In fact, after reading this book, I began to think that maybe I’d never actually thrown a dinner party in my life! I’ve had tons of people over for dinner, but I’ve never thrown a dinner party. I’ve only ever “had people over”. I had thought I had thrown dinner parties, but my table never looked anything like the tables in that book.

Please understand; I am not saying there’s anything wrong with that kind of entertaining. But I just don’t know if I have the time to put in that kind of work in order to have people over. The author of this book gets her kids involved, and it’s a family affair, and that’s wonderful. But I’m not that kind of person. I’m a lot more laid back. I like a lot of laughter, not quiet music playing in the background. I like big debates, not tame conversation. So I’m not a dinner party gal.

I worry that if we expect that anytime we have people over for dinner it has to be a big production, that we will stop inviting people over.

One of the best things you can do to encourage friendships for your children (and yourself) is to have people over. Invite other families over. Talk. Instead of watching TV tonight, talk to friends! Share food. Have people bring something and contribute. Let’s function more like a community.

But will we do that if we think that we must have elaborate place settings for people? Or we must plan a menu to reflect the seasons, or the fall colours, or the summer bounty? What if I just want to clear out my freezer?

I’m not saying I don’t put any effort in; I guess it’s just that I see a difference between hospitality and entertaining. Hospitality says, “come and share my life”. Entertaining says, “I will do something out of the ordinary and extraordinary for you”. Hospitality says, “I’m not really making extra effort; I just value you and so I want to include you in what we’re doing because you make it better by being here.” Entertaining says, “I went out of my way for you.”

One isn’t wrong and one right, it’s just a different philosophy. I would rather just share my life, and so I don’t do the whole “posh” thing. But some people are very good at posh, and it comes naturally. So by all means, go ahead!

But let’s not think that in order to have people over we have to be posh.

No, you don’t. Do you know how rare a home cooked meal is today, even if it’s just spaghetti? Anything you do is probably impressive. So don’t be afraid to share, even the little you do have. Remember the five small barley loaves and two small fish? They weren’t much, but they fed a ton of people and everyone had a big party. You can take the little you have and give people a memory.

What people remember is the feeling of community and the interaction.

Others who focus more on entertaining may feel they remember the beauty, and the grace, and the effort. Both are fine. But that beauty and grace and effort, while lovely, is not necessary. Don’t let fears that you can’t entertain stop you from having people in. Just share who you are, and laugh, and talk, and play, and have fun, and people will remember, even if it’s not a traditional dinner party. And if we all got back to inviting people in once a week, rather than hibernating in our own homes watching TV, we’d be a much healthier society.

My Go-To Meal for Hospitality: Tacos

Honestly, whenever I have a pile of people over, I make tacos. I’ve even made them for 200 people for a youth event. They’re cheap, they’re easy, you can make a lot of the stuff ahead of time, and people put their own together, so you don’t have to worry about picky eaters.

Here’s the trick to doing tacos well: Make a LOT of stuff to go in them. I use:

  • Taco meat (ground beef mixed with taco spices; I make my own, but you can buy ready-made, or find recipes on the internet)
  • Mexican rice (just make your favourite rice recipe, but substitute the water with 1/2 V8 or tomato juice and 1/2 chicken stock. Then add 2 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp oregano, some garlic salt, and some salt)
  • Refried Beans (just a can of romano or pinto beans, quickly heated up with some garlic, and then add cumin, oregano, chili powder, and salt and pepper. I do about a tsp of each of the spices, and then a pinch of salt and pepper. You can also make these with dried beans. Just soak overnight, then boil for 1 1/2 hours earlier in the day. SUPER cheap!)
  • Lettuce
  • Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Peppers
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole

Because I use the rice and refried beans, the meat goes a lot further. I find that 1 lb. can feed 6-7 people, whereas normally it only does 4.

And that’s it. It’s really easy. And everybody always loves it!

Do you have people over? What’s your favourite thing to make? How do you make it fun? Let me know!

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