Life on our family farm was controlled by three things: the seasons of the year, the cows that had to be milked twice a day, and Mom’s meals that got us all sitting around the table at 7 a.m., noon, and 7 p.m.
Mom could put a meal on the table faster than I can form the idea “meal” in my mind. Her skill was honed during 30 years as a farmer’s wife and once she and Dad retired to town, there was no need to change.
If anyone showed up close to meal time, she’d say, “Oh, stay and eat with us! We’ll put another plate on.” She always meant it. If it wasn’t exactly meal time, it was always time for lunch. Morning, afternoon, before bed. There was always food.
Hired men. The milk tester. Visiting relatives. Neighbors passing by. Mom welcomed them in with a smile and food. Preparing food was her job and her pleasure. Given that Mom had a fruit cellar with floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with vegetables, fruits, and meats she canned herself, if she needed to stretch a meal all she had to do was open another jar.
Mom passed the hospitality gene on to my sisters. My older sister Jane opened her large Victorian home as a bed and breakfast, welcoming strangers who became friends. A long time resident of Arizona, my younger sister Sue hosts a community center welcoming seniors for meals, telling them jokes, and remembering all their names even after meeting them just once.
Sad to say, the food portion of the hospitality gene skipped me. I enjoy guests but preparing meals makes me anxious. I expect I over think it. I can’t shake the feeling that food for guests has to be fancy. I didn’t get that idea from Mom. She was a meat and potatoes cook.
The food was basic but it was always good. And it was always served with Mom’s smile and a sincere, “Oh, stay and eat with us!” She meant it, and that, I think, is the secret to true hospitality.