Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dinner with Friends

Something Alex and I make a point of doing fairly often is having friends over for dinner.  We love to cook, we love to share food, we love to eat, we love to visit with people.  It all adds up.  Hosting dinner "parties" can be a ton of fun, but it can also be a ton of work.  The extra work in a day can equal extra stress, exhaustion and sometimes even grumpiness.  When we are busy every night of the week I can tend to be cranky and need some "me" time to regroup.  But hosting dinner for friends shouldn't cause extra stress and tension, it should release it as you sip wine with loved ones and chat about lives, God, family and more.  So how do we do it?  How can it be effortless, and not just look effortless?  Here are things I consider:

1.  Make a meal that is easy to prep in advance.  Lasagna, stuffed peppers (on the menu tonight), pasta salad, casserole, soup etc.  Do all the prep work before, throw it in the oven and set the timer and relax until your friends arrive.

2.  Along those lines, cook something easy and probably something that you have made a dozen times before.  It doesn't have to be gourmet...just good.  Most people like your traditional home cooked meals.  Keep it simple.

3.  Consider allergies and food preferences in advance.  While Alex and I eat vegan most of the time, I will venture out into the meat and dairy land, while Alex doesn't touch it.  It means so much to us when someone will go out of their way to prepare a meal with us in mind.  When you invite your friends over a simple "Is there anything you just absolutely don't like?"  Then you know you are in the clear. 

4.  Don't clean your house.  It doesn't matter.  Do you think their house is currently spotless?  Nope.  So pick one or two things you can control, and forget about the rest.  Usually I don't bother with floors.  They are just going to get more dirty.  But I will clean the toilet bowl and wipe down the sink (or ask Alex to).  In the end, it is the conversation that counts, the fellowship with friends and the relationships.  If you wait to have a perfectly clean house, you will never wind up hosting that dinner and will miss out on the opportunity to grow in your relationships.

5.  Don't be afraid to make it a potluck.  We like to host (it is easier with Eleanor) but our friends don't mind contributing to the meal.  When they ask "What can we bring?" it is safe to say just yourselves the first time.  The next time they get to bring the salad and the bread. 

Last night our dear friends Ben and Brittney hosted us for dinner.  Taking in two (semi) vegans can be a daunting task.  But they met the challenge and served a delicious bow-tie pasta salad with York Peppermint Patty brownies for dessert.  Alex and I contributed a loaf of the sourdough bread we made this week.  Dinner was wonderful.  But what was even better was spending time with Ben and Brittney.  In just the few short months we have known them they have become some of our best friends.  And I think it is largely in part that none of us are scared to make the effort. 

I received a devotional from Proverbs 31 this morning about friendship.  I quote:

Friendship is risky.  To be known is to risk being hurt. But friendship can be beautiful, and worth the risk.

There are so many examples of friendship in the bible.  I know God created friends to help us through this life.  By meeting and eating together we invest in our friendships and also in Christ.  In the bible Acts describes the early church saying:

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.       --Acts 2:46

So tonight we are now hosting a dinner party for Kay and Toby who have just returned from Mwandi.  I did actually choose to mop the floors for this dinner (only because they were SO.BAD.) and I made Brittany's Fiesta Stuffed Peppers (using vegan meat and cheese) so they are ready to pop in the oven when our guests arrive.  They are bringing the salad and wine and it will be a fun night of catching up! 

Do you host friends for dinner?  Does it make you nervous/overwhelmed?

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