My mom loves a good supper table. Back in the day, there were always cloth napkins, placemats, a meat with 2 sides, bread, and tall glasses of iced tea. No matter how tight our finances were, she managed to invite people to share our supper table several times a month. Her invitations were simple and seductive. "We're having meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and sweet peas on Thursday night! If you'd like to join us, I'll make my chocolate meringue pie!"
I hadn't thought about the parade of people who passed peas at our table until this fall when a friend from our Baylor Days published a book called Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal. The author, Milton Cunningham is a pastor, a chef, and a gifted wordsmith. The book is filled with stories and poetry about his life experiences with recipes tucked in between here and there. Reading Milton's words reminded me of the importance of sitting around a supper table with friends and family.
In the world of Let's Meet at Chili's, Alan and I tend to opt for the easiest solution - meet friends at local eateries. No mess. No fuss. In and out. Sharing a supper table seems to be a thing of the past. As I remembered the hearty laughter and enjoyable conversation of the meals of my youth, I decided to revive the Feast of the Supper Table in honor of Meems, the Queen of the Feast. In order to do this, I had to break through all the barriers that kept me from opening my home and table to friends.
Barriers that Kept Me From Opening My Home and Table to Friends
Barrier One: The dining table. This sounds so silly, but I usually have some sort of elaborate seasonal, oversized arrangement displayed on the dining table. To move all of that hoo-da and come up with some other more modest decor seems like more trouble than it's worth. Also, I don't really like eating in the dining room. The atmosphere is a bit more stilted. I much prefer a kitchen supper.
Barrier Two: Martha Stewart. This barrier needs no explanation.
Barrier Three: The carpet. Our old, tired carpet that I detest represents an even bigger issue - getting the house "company clean." Argh.
Barrier Four: Scheduling. Finding a Friday or Saturday night that is open for both the invitees and us is not easy. Also, Friday or Saturday nights seem to raise the bar of expectation for all parties involved. No pun intended. Those nights are reserved for more festive activities than your run-of-the-mill weeknight.
Barrier Five: Second Guessing. Who really wants to sit in my kitchen having supper on any given night when Chuy's just opened here in Lubbock?
Solutions that Helped Me Open My Home and Table to Friends
(following my mother's example)
Solution One: Eat in the kitchen, for Pete's sake! Dining rooms across the nation go unused because people don't like moving large seasonal centerpieces and breaking out the "good dishes." Eat in the kitchen, people!
Solution Two: She ain't comin'.
Solution Three: Nobody really cares about my carpet, and the house should always be "company clean" now that we are empty nesters. Company clean feels so good.
Solution Four: Invite people over for a casual Thursday night supper. Or, Tuesday. Or, Wednesday. Don't ask me why, but weeknights seem to be more casual.
Solution Five: Seriously, Carolyn, you are WAY over-thinking this.
Guess what! Alan and I have enjoyed guests at our supper table several times this month! And, we've enjoyed it more than eating in restaurants with all the noise and interruptions!
Last night, we had a blast at our supper table with four of our adopted Tech girls!
In true Mimi tradition, I set the table the night before. [She set her Thanksgiving table at least a week before the feast just so that she could savor the Setting of the Table.]
Yesterday, I threw together a big pot of chili to go with cornbread muffins and pumpkin pie. (Martha would NOT have been impressed.) Then, in honor of Meems and all of the Baylor girls that she adopted, I made little sussies for each guest.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much Alan and I enjoyed sharing a meal with these four delightful ladies who are interesting and funny and so full of life!
Thanks so much Meems and Milton. Your influence has blessed me to no end.