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Learning How to be a good Hostess at the Spur of the Moment.
"What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?"
Entering a tight knit Community
In all of the preceding hubs, I have either written recipes or shared a glimpse into our life in Israel. In my very first hub on this subject, From the Suburbs of Chicago to a Farm in Israel, I mention how warm and gracious the Israeli people are. In this hub, I'd like to expound on that sentiment. The first time I visited Israel was on my honeymoon. How crazy that it was also the first time that I met my husband's family. They were unable to be at our wedding so several of them were waiting excitedly at the airport. They brought me back to their home where the rest of the family was gathered to welcome their son back and to meet me. We were ushered into a room and seved tea and cookies. There was a big production of passing out the cups (I mean glasses) of tea and many comments on the cookies. Of course, I understood not a word of what they were saying. Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed. No worries! This was nothing compared to the next few days. I think I was held up to scrutiny by at least 10 different families that first day and countless more in the days that ensued. I sure did a lot of smiling! Then came the true test.....
Saturday afternoon Stroll in the Village
My husband's family lives in a village that is comprised of Jews from various areas. One commanality they had was reverence for the sabbath. Religious Jewish families do not travel on the sabbath, They go to the synagogue, share their meals with family and friends, pray, reflect, visit and relax. My first shabbat (sabbath) in Israel was spent at Miriam's house. After a delicious meal, my husband took me for a walk. He told me that that there were a few families that he wanted me to meet. Along we went. As we strolled, we met others doing the same thing. Parents, children, friends, all strolling, some munching on garanim (sunflower seeds) along the way. I would soon learn that these are a "staple" to any Israeli gathering. What a beautiful December day it was. Brisk and sunny! A welcome break from a cold Chicago winter!
Traditional "tea" in an Israeli Village
So we walked, my "husband and I" (I couldn't get enough of that phrase!) and we talked. He warned me about this neighbor and that one. He pointed out houses and people. He told me their stories. He introduced me, I shook hands, accepted kisses and returned warm embraces! I didn't really understand the words but I did understand the sentiment. They were genuinely happy to make my acquaintance and excited to show me their homes. When we got to the first home, we were ushered in with much ado and fanfare worthy of a king. We were served a pretty, light yellow tea along with a plate full of cookies. The tea was interesting and the cookies yummy. Yossi warned me not to eat too much. This was only our first stop! Boy, was he right. At each stop we would explain that we weren't hungry, that we had just come from visiting others but Israeli hopitality would not allow them to just sit and talk. There had to be food and drink. Tables were laden with cookies, cakes, bowls of fruit and nuts. Not only were things on the table but every now and then, someone would get up and pass them around. Often one of the women would take an apple or orange and a knife. They would peel, slice and pass each person a piece. This all done while regaling us with stories of my husband's youth!
A pictorial story of My First day visiting homes on an Israeli VillageClick thumbnail to view full-size
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said
"Hospitality sitting with gladness"
For the Hostess with the mostest
Thomas Bailey Aldrich said:
"When friends are at your hearthside met, Sweet courtesy has done it's most if you have made each guest forget That he himself is not the host."
Sampling Israeli Hospitality
Needless to say, I about floated home that first day, both literally and figuratively! Literally because I probably drank about a gallon of tea and figuratively because of all the warm fuzzies I received that day. I was euphoric. I was made to feel special and so very welcome. I am here to tell you that it was a feeling that never ended. I was in Israel that visit for 2 weeks. I did not return again until 9 years later when I moved to the village. The very same hopitality I had encountered as a visitor was extended once again to me. Any time of day was a good time to visit, gossip or just say "hey". It was never too early or too late for a cup of coffee or tea. You never had to call ahead or wait for an invitation. There was a warm welcome for everyone, along with something tasty. Conversely, I had to learn to be prepared for unexpected company. There was always an extra cake in the freezer and plenty of coffee and tea. It was different from what I was used to and took me a bit of time to acclimate. I remeber feeling like I was in summer camp or a college dorm. There was always someone to talk to, visit with and share a meal or a snack. There were impromptu barbeques, picnics and campfires. Friendships were forged and bonded. Memories were created. In all my years (and there's been a lot of them!) I have never felt the warmth, love and kindness from neighbors, friends, co workers and strangers that I did in Israel! And I will always be grateful that they took a young woman from Chicago who didn't speak ther language, understand all their customs and ways, and they accepted her...welcomed her... taught her...and made her their own!
Good Foods to keep on hand for unexpected guests
ice cream cake
ready to bake crescent rolls
ready to bake bread/rolls
Easy things you can have ready when you are hostessing.
Being a good hostess means more than just having the right food. It also means having the right atmosphere and activities for your guests, as well. It is a good idea to ensure thay you won't have to spend too much time on serving and preparing. A good hostess should be able to sit down and enjoy his/her own event with his/her guests.
I recommend prering as much ahead of time as possible. unless you are having a dinner party, keep you refreshments simple and plentiful.