The E-word. You know the one I mean. The word that dare not be spoken in Christian circles. The word evoking the fear that what we’re really after is for people to look at us and all our pretty things–our pristine tablescape and perfect food–because we’re the ‘hostess with the most-ess’.
We have flung it to the ground like it’s the dirtiest of words, not worthy to drop from our sanctified lips.
In the ’60’s when I was a child you entertained when you had people over. When my mom told us kids she was entertaining Friday night we knew exactly what she meant:
- We were giving our best
- We were making a fuss
- We were taking time to make the food and the setting extra special so our guests would know we thought they were important.
I always groaned a little inwardly because entertaining meant using the good silver which meant polishing. That was my job and it was a tedious job I loathed. Trust me, at ten you hardly appreciate the beauty of perfectly polished silver.
But entertaining also meant the excitement of a bustling household, the anticipation of wonderful foods as my mom was an extraordinary cook, the beauty of a plain mahogany table transformed with linen and silver, candles and flowers, crystal and the good china.
A celebration was happening because people were coming and when people were coming you gave them your best because they were worth the fuss.
My other job besides the detested silver polishing was making up the appetizer platters. My mom did appetizers, or as they used to be called, hors d’oeuvres, like nobody’s business. She would fuss as much over these as the main course because she knew appetizers set the tone for the whole meal. They were the silent witnesses to your degree of care for your guests, foreshadowing what was to come.
She would let me slather cream cheese on those little slices of party rye then artfully lay cool pink pieces of smoked Scottish salmon on top, squeeze lemon juice all over, add a sprinkle of capers and finely chopped red onion. I’d finish it all off with a big grinding of cracked black pepper then set all the little salmon appetizers on a big silver tray. (The one I polished!)
Next I’d work on the paté. I’d lay out a bed of clean butter lettuce and carefully set the lovely foie gras studded duck paté atop, add a crystal dish of crisp crackers and another dish of those tiny, salty french pickles called cornichon. Silver knives would be set next to the paté and the platter would be done. Then, I’d load cold, jumbo shrimp in a big dish with another dish of horseradish spiked cocktail sauce and toothpicks for dipping.
Then we’d bake the cheese puffs. Imagine crusty italian bread broken into bite-sized chunks, dipped in a mix of cheeses, egg whites, and garlic and baked till puffed and golden. You can’t imagine how quickly these were gobbled up! Recipe below 🙂
When the trays were done and the guests had arrived, my sisters and I donned starched white aprons, picked up our trays and marched into the fray of cocktail time, serving the guests until our trays were empty.
I’ve left my starched white apron behind but I can still make a mean appetizer platter. My specialty is loading up a big tray with unique cheeses and crackers and my homemade fig jam, bowls of salty olives and always those tiny French pickles.
Entertain was a positive word when I was growing up. Look closely at the word and you’ll see two words, enter and in. You enter my world and I enter yours and we usually do it around a table. The word’s origin is in Old Middle English and means to hold mutually.
Don’t you love that? I hold you and you hold me as we enter in to each other’s lives. It can also mean to
I like to imagine Jesus Himself is coming for dinner. What would I do for Him? What might I do differently? Would I put out the best china? Would I light candles? Would I take the time to make the food and the table a little extra special? Would I clean a bit more carefully? Would I polish some silver? You bet I would!
I want to treat you like I’d treat Jesus, whether you know Him or not. I want you to feel safe to enter in, safe to be held for awhile, safe to rest and leave refreshed. I want you to feel like you’re part of my family.
I will give you my best because you’re worth the fuss.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the word hospitality. The dictionary describes it like this:
- The friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
- The quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous, way.
Maybe hospitality and entertain are more synonym than antonym, with far more in common than we think. Maybe it’s just a generational difference, two words with the same meaning.
What drives me is my love for others and my love of cooking. The love passes from my heart straight out my hands as I make up appetizer platters, dip cheese puffs, stir chili or blend homemade vinaigrette for salad. My goal is to make you feel special and completely comfortable. I want our time together to be filled with amazing smells, tastes and conversation.
I want you to leave feeling like you entered in.
I hope you leave knowing you were held.
- 1 cup butter
- 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 ½ teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 egg whites
- Large loaf of crusty Italian or French bread
- Melt the butter and cheeses in the top of a double boiler or in a pan on the stove. Stir in cayenne pepper, garlic, and mustard until blended.
- Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the cheese mixture. Keep mixture warm.
- Cube the bread leaving the crust on and dip into cheese mixture to coat.
- Place cubes on a cookie sheet and freeze.
- Store in plastic bags until needed.
- Bake frozen puffs at 400 degrees until puffed and golden, about 10 minutes.
- Cheese Puffs are a throwback to the '60s and '70s but just as good today as when I was young. My daughter and grandchildren gobble these up. Trust me, your guests will love them!
- I recommend a good crusty loaf like a baguette, not a soft loaf. You can add a finely diced shallot to this for a little extra kick.
- When you bake these, you'll want to use either parchment paper or silpat silicone mats. Or, you could butter your baking sheets so the puffs won't stick.
- Make up a bunch before the holidays and you'll have a delicious hot appetizer in 10 minutes when unexpected guests drop by.