“These look good,” I texted my sister, and I sent along a link to Bobby Flay’s recipe for Chocolate Chip-Pistachio Pancakes with Salted Caramel Syrup (total time 55 minutes, level: intermediate.) I knew I wouldn’t make time to make them, but I knew she would the next time I came home. And she did, because she loves to cook and loves to experiment on our family. But, sorry Bobby, they just didn’t cut the mustard. Maybe it was the bourbon or the fact she forgot the pomegranate seeds. I don’t remember the fresh mint leaf garnish, either.

“Did we talk about that [the following event] then?” I asked Sissy the other day.

“I don’t remember,” she responded. Maybe our brains were still reeling from the bourbon.

I asked my husband when we last talked about it, and he thought it might have been while we were discussing the family heirlooms and what we would leave with our daughter when we move.

Like the 1976 Michigan bicentennial license plate that hangs in our garage.


We lived in Roswell, Georgia, then and drove down to the International House of Pancakes in Sandy Springs for Saturday morning breakfast. We pulled into the parking lot right behind an older couple driving a car that sported a Michigan plate. I was so excited to have a taste of home that I bounced in my seat and frantically pointed. Knowing I didn’t carry a license for rudeness, I apologized when the pair joined us in the waiting line. I explained we’d been living away from Michigan now for three years, and I was a bit homesick.  The place was crowded, standing room only. When a table for four was finally available, we invited them to join us.

In Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life, Marjorie J. Thompson writes:

Hospitality means receiving the other, from the heart, into my own dwelling place . . . The other can be literally anyone apart from ourselves. Ancient practices of hospitality had particular application to strangers and enemies. This is a challenging notion for us today but one that deserves our attention. Who are the “strangers” and “enemies” in our midst? immigrants? addicts? the mentally ill? people who differ from us in ethnic origin, religious conviction, or political affiliation?

[People who drive cars with Michigan license plates?]

Our “dwelling place” may be physical–a room, apartment, or house. [Or a pancake restaurant?] It may also be a metaphor for mental and emotional “space.”

We can invite others into an inner world of thoughts and feelings, sharing gifts of heart and mind . . .

Hospitality is essentially an expression of love. 

I didn’t realize back then that inviting this couple to share a restaurant table was an act of hospitality. 

After we introduced ourselves by first names, the conversation went something like this.

The Man: “We’re on our way to Florida for the winter. So where are you from in Michigan?”

My Husband: “I’m from near Charlotte [pronounced Shar-LOT.]”

The Man: “Oh, we have relatives near Charlotte. They have a farm south of town.”

My Husband: “I grew up on a farm south of town.”

The Man: “Did you know a Forrest King?”

My Husband: “Forrest King was my grandfather.”

My chin dropped into my coffee cup.

Turns out they were some kind of shirt-tail relatives and had actually attended a family reunion on the farm. My in-laws were already in Florida for the winter, so my husband gave the couple their contact information and called his parents when we got back home. (No cell phones back then, of course. And no texting.) The two couples eventually reconnected in the Sunshine State. I don’t remember who “called on” whom first. 

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,” wrote the author of Hebrews, “for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

And I say, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained family without knowing it.”


The other day I texted my sister a recipe for Bobby Flay’s Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon Curd and Fresh Raspberries, (total time 30 minutes, level: easy.) “I wonder if these are any better, I wrote.”

“They have to be,” she responded. “I make a mean lemon curd…”

Making her own curd would extend her total time, but I’m expecting she’ll make these the next time I go home. My sister carries a license for hospitality.


Sandra Heska-King / Posts / Blog
“Once a nurse, always a nurse,” some say. But these days I care for (and care with) words. I live in Michigan and write from a 150-plus-year-old family farmhouse with a wrap-around porch set on 60 acres surrounded by corn or soybeans or sometimes wheat. I spend way too much money on books, and I find my inner happy when I wander a woodsy trail, sit at a water’s edge, sip a new flavor of tea, or eat M&M’s the proper way— from a crystal dish, one sweet circle at a time. Find me at my blog or on Twitter
  • SimplyDarlene

    Oh, miss SHK – what an awesome story!

    There’s no such thing as “coincidence,” aye? (I remember the day in college when I connected with an instructor over my grandpa’s big, red barn that stood 500 miles away on the outskirts of a ho-hum town in the middle of Montana.)

    You’re so right, hospitality happens whenever we open hearts to others.


    August 31st, 2016 10:52
    • Avatar
      Sandra Heska King

      Well, Miss Darlene, I’d sure love to hear that story.

      August 31st, 2016 13:19
  • Jody Collins
    Jody Collins

    oh, what a lovely orchestration of ‘coincidence’. I love it! I like the new definition of hospitality–doesn’t necessarily have to be in my own home….IHOP will do. And Marjorie’s extension of the word ‘strangers’–that gives me something to ponder as well.

    August 31st, 2016 15:35
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      Sandra Heska King

      I thought Marjorie’s definition was especially timely…

      August 31st, 2016 20:23
  • Avatar

    They say truth is stranger than fiction. Love your story, and yes, it is in this case. What are the odds you meet family at a restaurant? What a blessing.

    August 31st, 2016 23:33
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      Sandra Heska King

      And 800 miles away at that! Thanks for coming to the table, Theresa. 🙂

      September 1st, 2016 7:59
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    Patricia Hunter

    Wonderful story, Sandra, and beautifully told. You know? When that happens…people crossing our paths in places there’s no explanation for how that could happen? I’m convinced that’s one of the ways God shows us He loves us. A little kiss and a wink from Heaven and a glimpse of His hand. xox

    September 1st, 2016 11:55
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      Sandra Heska King

      I love thinking of it like that. Meeting family was the last thing on our minds that day!

      September 1st, 2016 18:35
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    Martha Orlando

    Fantastic story, Sandra!
    Yes, by showing hospitality to others, we never know when we could be entertaining angels.
    (and the pancakes sound fantastic!)

    September 1st, 2016 15:53
    • Avatar
      Sandra Heska King

      Well, the first recipe wasn’t as good as it sounds, though maybe it was our taste buds. It was very sweet, and she’s already thinking of ways to tweak it. Now the second one… that has possibilities. 🙂

      September 1st, 2016 18:37

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