Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Guests Are More Important Than Food"

I'm a Jane-Come-Lately to the lost art of hospitality, but this NY Times article by Food Critic Corey Mintez describes this important virtue in clear English.

"When I’m the host, people are more important than food. And when I’m the guest, I don’t really care if the food is bad."

"Families often lose out on the hospitality we offer to strangers. But when your cousins come in out of the cold, pumpkin pie in one hand, toddler in the other, they appreciate having someone take their coat. And get them a drink.
Close family members require less ministration. New family members and boyfriends and girlfriends who aren’t yet familiar enough to put their feet up on the sofa may feel less comfortable. They deserve extra attention.
What they need, what we all need, is to feel special, rather than ignored in favor of food that should have been prepped in advance as much as possible. Ask them about school. Give them a kitchen task. Remind them that they’re part of the family. "
More great info on the virtue of humility--a must for any good cook. I'm convinced this is why Julia Child (a graduate of my same college) shone on TV. She dropped the chicken on the floor, laughed at herself, washed the chicken and then cooked it--on national TV!
"Every one of those shows where cooking is a sport features a moment when the food is judged. I’ve seen that scene played out again and again at dinner parties in private homes, with the host expecting the guests to render a verdict of the meal. It makes everyone uncomfortable.
Even worse, I’ve been served food with the declaration: “It didn’t turn out the way it looked in the magazine. I don’t think it’s good. But tell me what you think.” This is the hosting equivalent of “Does this make me look fat?” There is no right answer. Because the question is really: “Will you pander to my insecurity as a cook?”
Even with the uniformity of the Thanksgiving menu, turkey is not free from judgment. Its moistness and the crispness of its skin are scored against all other turkeys ever cooked.
Better to serve it without fanfare or apology. If it’s edible, they will eat it. If it’s good, you’ll hear that in a low-pitched cross between a moan and a yum, elicited without request.
It’s more important that you continue to pour water and wine, to remind them that you’re looking after their needs.