When I want to let my friends and family know how much they mean to me, I cook for them. This summer I’ve been fortunate to have a number of dear people I adore come through town. This town. Spokane. Not usually a destination location, so I’ve been more than grateful.
I’m a big believer in hospitality. I will nearly always accommodate overnight guests in my home, and I absolutely cherish the opportunity to share some of the best things I have to offer with them. Usually that comes in the form of good, local, trustworthy, healthy food. Abraham Maslow, known for his Hierarchy of Needs, named food & shelter as two of the most basic needs to be met for self-actualization. I host because I enjoy it, because it develops community, because it adds a personal dimension to everyday experiences and it’s a way I express love. A love of flavor. A love of the environment. A love of animals. And a love and appreciation for the value my friends and family bring to my life.
Whether I grew it, picked it or bought it from a local farmer, rancher, or grocer – at my table, how the food got there is part of the experience. Sometimes we talk about it, sometimes it’s just playing in my head. Either way, the sourcing and preparation of the meal are things I consider important. That latter part takes some work and often I do miss out on some of the laughs and conversation while I’m in the kitchen. But that’s where the love of hospitality kicks in. It gives me great pleasure to provide a place where people are comfortable, where they share freely with people they’ve only just met, where they know they will get a quality meal. I feel good knowing that quality means it’s a meal that supports good farming practices and that the food is nourishing and safe (local food and food safety in Part 2 of this story next month).
I was recently reminded that my friends do appreciate how much care I about what I serve them when one of them came through town with her family. Origination – France. First U.S. stop – Spokane. That’s a lot of pressure. Three hours before they were coming over, I learned that their flights had gotten completely messed up and their arrival had been delayed by a full day. They had basically just landed. Two days in airports around the world. Two young children. Too wiped out for words. They didn’t cancel.
They also didn’t shirk their contribution to the meal, hamburger buns. Upon arrival, the sleeping kids were transported to the guest bed. Our other friend and her son joined us from Helena, MT, and our reunion of friends who had lived and met in Colorado 15yrs ago commenced. As the buns were handed over, so was one of my favorite dinner stories ever. Not only did she get the buns, but she applied scrutiny to the selection. One package that touted “no high fructose corn syrup” caught her eye. Then another selection looked perhaps a little more appealing, but didn’t broadcast the same credentials on the front. Mere hours off a weary travel experience, there she was reading ingredient labels. Her work was rewarded – the ingredient panel divulged high fructose corn syrup. The first bag o’ buns easily made the cut. As she told us about the quest, you could tell it didn’t add to her exhaustion; it added to her excitement.
Originally, the focus of my menu planning was kid-friendly, flexible with service time (thankfully), all cooking on the grill due to the 100 degree heat, using a good amount of what I actually had in-house, and featuring some of the best of summer and local ingredients. Only when we finally sat down did I realize it was also a great welcome home, all-American meal too. Hand-formed burgers from Lazy R Beef in Cheney, my own rhubarb ketchup, Heron Pond goat cheese, Caprese salad with Mt. Spokane Deerfield Farm heritage tomatoes and my garden basil, coleslaw with cabbage from my CSA and my partner’s delicious dressing, a variety of sliced bell peppers & Spokane’s own Victor’s Toasted Sesame Hummus, and finally home-made strawberry ice cream with Spokane’s Family Farm milk and berries. That was a particularly sweet ending because the teen in my life and I picked the strawberries early one morning this past June, in a downpour (repeat, early and a downpour, and the she-teen still joined me with a smile on and picked a lot).
As they asked about the food, the stories unfolded. Their eyes lit up with some surprise and joy at each local or hand-made offering. They stayed past their bedtime, and of course right when they were leaving their kids woke up. My Helena friends stayed at my place and we shared fruit smoothies in the morning before I went to work and they then went to Coeur d’Alene to spend more playtime with the expats.
I went to bed FULL that night. Full of friendship. Full of thanks. Full of food. Full of life. And so very glad we had settled on dinner at my house instead eating out, which my friend from France had suggested, thinking it would be easier. They wouldn’t have landed in time for a reservation, the kids couldn’t have slept in comfort in a restaurant, the noise could have been overwhelming, our conversation less open, our visit much shorter, the food less personal. Thank you friends for letting me share my love with you.
Très bon and safe travels!