Recently, an acquaintance and her family moved back to our area after living in a different part of the country for several years. We were not particularly close when we had attended graduate school together, but we were friendly, and once she and her family moved back, we invited them over for dinner. I prepared a home-cooked meal, including entrée, side dishes, appetizer, salad and dessert; our children played together nicely, and my acquaintance (let’s call her “Rachel”) and her husband brought a beautiful bottle of wine as a hostess gift. It was a lovely evening, and Rachel, her husband and children, my husband, our children and I, all had a good time. Over the next few months, we had had several play dates, mostly at our house or at a local park (her twins are the same age as my oldest, and her younger daughter is right between my younger children), and the kids played together very nicely, and we had a nice time catching up. None of these visits took place at Rachel’s house, as her family was in the process of house-hunting and was renting a small apartment, so they did not feel comfortable entertaining there, or that was at least, the reason Rachel had given for not inviting us over. Some months later, Rachel and her husband invited us over for brunch and to see their new house that they had just purchased in our area. We appreciated the invitation, and I asked if I could bring anything and offered to bring a side dish. Here is the exact conversation, “May I bring anything? I make a mean spinach quiche”. “Yes, that would be great, thank you”. “Is there anything else you would like for me to bring?” “No, we’ll take care of everything else, that’s fine”. Fast forward to the day of – I make the quiche, bundle the family in the car, and off we go.
We tour their (lovely) home, the kids are playing; Rachel makes coffee for the adults and pours juice, milk and water for the youngsters. About 40 minutes later, she asks if we are hungry. At this point, it’s after 12 pm, seems like an appropriate time for brunch, and I offer to help her set up and follow her to the kitchen. She asks me how to heat up the quiche; puts it in the oven and puts some chips and dip into a bowl and asks us to come to the table. Our brunch is chips and dip, and quiche. I only made one quiche, as I assumed that since we were being invited to brunch, she would take care of a main dish and some sides – even a platter of bagels and cream cheese would have been fine. There are, at this point, 4 adults and 6 children at the table, who, as I gathered, were expected to brunch on 1 9-inch quiche and a bowl of chips and dip with some beverages. She asks me to slice up the quiche since I brought it, so I cut it up in very small slivers and serve it, making sure that there’s enough for everyone. Thankfully, our kids, despite being fairly young, did not utter a peep about being hungry and ate what was in front of them. At one point, Rachel did get up and get a few yogurts from the refrigerator and gave them to the children. That was it as far as food was concerned. After she stood up to clear off the table, her husband actually asked, “Will you be staying much longer? I have some work to do”. (We were invited for 11 am, and it’s about 12:45 pm at that point, so it’s not like we had been there for 5 hours). I helped Rachel bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen, while my husband gathered up our children, and at that point, we thanked them for their hospitality and took our leave. Needless to say, as soon as we got home, we fed our hungry family a second lunch, as a small slice of quiche and a handful of chips was not enough for their midday meal.
My husband and I were quite befuddled by how rude Rachel and her husband had been – who has someone over for brunch and does not offer them more than a bowlful of chips and a handful of yogurt cartons? And who asks their guests less than 2 hours into a brunch-time visit, if they would be leaving soon? If they were not prepared to host that day, would it not have been more gracious to cancel? Even the day off would have been fine, as we certainly would not want to visit with someone who was not interested in visiting with us. Or, did they assume based on the conversation above that they would be providing the house, and we would be providing the brunch since I prepared them a lavish meal when they came to my house? Am I completely off my rocker? 0906-16
I think successful hospitality requires both practice and a willingness to serve others. This kind of hosting blunder is something I expect from a young person who has not had the opportunity to witness gracious hospitality in action. But even if there is a lack of knowledge, if there is an intentional heart attitude to serve one’s guests, efforts are made to be hospitable and sometimes that means you get served chips and dip and any other odd combinations of food. Rachel, at minimum, did serve you coffee, juice, milk and water with that bowl of chips. I suggest giving her another chance but also host her for breakfast and show her how it’s done by example. Nothing fancy…juice, coffee, danishes/pastries, fresh fruit, maybe a egg strata. If she doesn’t get the clue after that, it’s best to lower your expectations a bit inregards to Rachel’s hospitality.