Hospitality is a personal practice. The most welcoming homes are not welcoming because they follow a rudimentary set of steps to become welcoming, but because they offer hospitality with personality.
I think of my Grandma Donna. When we visit, breakfast/brunch is one of my favorite meals. Grandma always sets out placemats, seasonal napkins, and multiple glasses for your beverages of choice. There's always juice, and generally a nice omelet, hot coffee, and milk. And in between meals, there's a special tin in the kitchen stocked with little chocolates.
I think of my parents. When we visit, you can bet my mom has tailored the menu to our favorite meals and preferences, and my brother is going to cook one of his specialty meals (a real treat). And of course, there are dogs to snuggle with and multiple handmade quilts only an arm's length away.
I think of my in-laws. At any moment in the morning or afternoon, someone is making coffee and they'll pour you a hot mug. There are pleasant-scented candles burning, board games to be played, and puppies to take on a nighttime walk.
All of these are homes I'm incredibly fond of, and although they have their differences in how they are hospitable, they all offer warm hugs, good conversation, and a sense that the hosts enjoy your company.
Hospitable - disposed to treat guests with warmth and generosity
definition from the The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
A hospitable place is a one of warmth, a place where the hosts are generous and a guest naturally feels comfortable. In our own version of hospitality, we try to keep our home tidy, and we keep a candle lit most of the time. We have a selection of mugs and I encourage guests to pick their favorite mug out to use. I'll offer coffee or tea, a hug at the door when you arrive and before you leave, and hopefully, good conversation. But I realize that these facets of hospitality differ from home to home and place to place and I love that.
I'm reading a book all about the Swedish tradition of fika (pronounced "fee-ka") and it offers this definition:
"Functioning as both a verb and a noun, the concept of fika is simple. It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it."
The Swedish phrase Ska vi fika? translates to Shall we fika? I love that—it's a simple question that infers a conscious slowing down. Naturally, the book offers insight into both the history and modern day practices (with many recipes). It just so happens that most of us enjoy a mug of something warm + a baked treat + rest + good conversation. Fika, at it's heart, seems a natural practice of hospitality.
According to the book, a good Swedish hostess serves at least seven(!) kinds of cookies on a proper cookie platter, traditionally. I've yet to accomplish that level of hosting, but I made a list of baked goods I would choose from, if I were to prepare seven. These aren't all cookies, but they are all treats that pair well with coffee or tea:
- tiny pecan pies—just subtly sweet
- Scandinavian almond kringlers—a gluten-free version that is just as good as the original
- almond cake—my go-to birthday cake for myself)
- choco-mint snappers—not just at Christmastime
- gluten-free almond cake—with cardamom!
- chai-spiced snowball cookies—a twist on traditional snowball cookies
- gluten-free cut-out sugar cookies—so good
- zucchini bread—one of my go-to's when we have guests from out-of-town
Whatever hospitality looks like for you and your's, may it warm your heart and the hearts of your guests. Because there's never a bad time to ask, Ska vi fika?