Meat and Cheeseboard with Fruit

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’. 

Entertain.

We have flung it to the ground like it’s the dirtiest of words, not worthy to drop from our sanctified lips. 

Oy.

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. 

Taking Back the E-Word

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 “hold together, stick together, support” which sounds exactly like family to me! Come into my world, my life, my table and let me pamper you, make you feel special, and use the good china because you’re worth it. 

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: 

  1. The friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers. 
  2. 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. 

 

Cheese Puffs
Serves 8
Golden, puffed, delicious hot cheese puffs are simple to make ahead and will be the star of your party!
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup butter
  2. 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  3. 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  4. ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  5. 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  6. 1 ½ teaspoons dijon mustard
  7. 2 egg whites
  8. Large loaf of crusty Italian or French bread
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the cheese mixture. Keep mixture warm.
  3. Cube the bread leaving the crust on and dip into cheese mixture to coat.
  4. Place cubes on a cookie sheet and freeze.
  5. Store in plastic bags until needed.
  6. Bake frozen puffs at 400 degrees until puffed and golden, about 10 minutes.
Notes
  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Make up a bunch before the holidays and you'll have a delicious hot appetizer in 10 minutes when unexpected guests drop by.
Adapted from my mom's recipe
Adapted from my mom's recipe
Grace Table http://gracetable.org/
 
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Kate Battistelli / Posts / Blog
Kate’s a writer and author who loves to cook and chronicle life with her iPhone. She’s been married 30 years to her best friend Mike and she's mom to recording artist Francesca Battistelli and Mimi to Franny's two children. Kate loves creating and sharing easy recipes using whole foods and organic ingredients. And if you come to her house, you'll get chocolate and muffins, a big pot of French Press coffee and lots of conversation!
  • Avatar
    Sarah

    Thank you for sharing your cheese puffs with us! This WILL be on the menu for Thanksgiving Day. I love that I can make ahead and freeze. I also love how you redeem the concept of entertaining. My husband is definitely an entertainer at heart. He wants guests who come to our home to feel loved by the way he serves them (while I’d much rather them just ignore the mess and the so-so food and feel loved by the way I chat with them ;))

    November 14th, 2014 13:02
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    • Avatar
      Kate Battistelli

      Oh Sarah, both are just as important–the serving and the chatting. Even the mess!! The main thing is the love and I’m certain you’ve got that down!!

      November 14th, 2014 14:09
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      02
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    Lori Harris
    http://loriharris.me/

    I want you to leave feeling like you entered in.-

    The heart of hospitality in just a few words. Such a beautiful post, friend.

    {And oh wow, Kate! Cheese puffs- Can’t wait to make these!!}

    November 14th, 2014 13:13
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    Christie Purifoy
    http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

    I love this! Makes me want to throw a party. Thank you, Kate.

    November 14th, 2014 13:58
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    05
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    Shelly Miller
    http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

    In our culture where everyone celebrates understated and casual at the expense of thoughtful beauty, I absolutely love this. Love is in the details.The times I have entertained with thoughtfulness toward the details are still moments that my friends talk about over a decade later. They matter because they make people feel loved and that is the point of hospitality, yes? Thanks for this Kate, your words are a fragrant aroma.

    November 14th, 2014 14:17
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      Kate Battistelli

      I’ve always believed the little things mean a lot and I love the way you phrase it Shelly–thoughtful beauty. That’s it exactly!! Blessings!

      November 14th, 2014 18:09
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      08
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    Shelly Wildman

    I love this, Kate, and I love what Shelly said. I think there is a place for the casual–come on over and see my mess!–but I also think there is a time and a place to elevate those around us by serving them our very best. I do both at different times. And those cheese puffs?? My mom used to make those too! Except I think hers used a jar of Cheese Whiz (*yikes!*). I’m going to have to dig out that recipe and see how close it is to yours. And I am going to serve these to my family on Thanksgiving as well. Yum!!!

    November 14th, 2014 16:37
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      Kate Battistelli

      I agree Shelly. Thank goodness hospitality is a big umbrella, big enough for both!! Oh my, Cheez Whiz!! I’d love to see that recipe 🙂 Hugs!

      November 14th, 2014 19:26
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    Kamille Scellick
    http://www.redeemingthetable.com/

    You have helped me have a new perspective into entertain. It’s all about redeeming the words yes? You’ve done that by bringing us into your world and helping us see where most of it lie in the heart, and make someone always welcomed & loved at the table.

    November 14th, 2014 18:10
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      Kate Battistelli

      I’ve never met you Kamille but I’ve been following you on social media for awhile and I’m certain your table is filled with both love AND welcome. Can’t wait to sit at the table with you one day!

      November 14th, 2014 19:29
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    Debby Hudson
    http://livingingraceland.me

    You’ve made me think of the times our home has been filled with the warmth of friends, meeting around the table. None of us being foodies but all of us being sharing life together. The table is our gathering place whether it’s a feast or cup of tea. Thanks for these definitions to expand my thoughts on entertaining.

    November 20th, 2014 22:03
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    • Avatar
      Kate Battistelli

      You’re so welcome Debby. If love is what drives you, then that’s all that matters! Blessings 🙂

      December 1st, 2014 14:02
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