The Lost Art of Hospitality

“Southernism” can be so different to so many people

Recently a friend asked me what “southern” meant to me. Naturally, as a native southern woman, I wanted to give her a reliable answer that she could understand as well as “adopt” into her own world “up north”, in Manhattan. “Southernism” can be so different to so many people but there are a few common themes…one is being nice. Having grown up in Dalton, Georgia where I knew literally everyone or they knew me, I’m pretty sure I’m nice to everyone…and why not? Everyone is pretty nice to me. We tend to mirror the behavior we see in our lives. That said, I have been thinking about this subject even more as we are moving into the holiday season. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and any other holidays you may celebrate with your loved ones should be a time for pleasure, fellowship and friendship. Why is it then that some think family and friends are two separate things? I think friends can be family and that family can be friends…and what better’s than when your family members are your best friends?!?  Let’s not lose sight of who matters most in our lives, it’s our parents, our children, our siblings and certainly our spouses or significant others.

The 6th “love language” is lovin’ from the oven

When thinking about what makes living in the south “special”, it almost always boils down to something that involves food and beverages with people whose company we enjoy. There’s a famous book titled “The Five Love Languages” but the author left out the 6th “love language”, “lovin from the oven”.  As we southerners celebrate marriages, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations or even great report cards with food, we enjoy the anticipation of said events early on by flipping through cherished family cook books for menu inspiration or for the modern southerners, perhaps the “open table” app comes into play to make reservations. I’ve noticed that one doesn’t even have to be from the south to enjoy practicing these beautiful traditions. As our friends already know, the Kiker & Morrow family is incredibly close-knit and we eat together as often as possible. I’m a strong believer that the act of breaking bread together ensures that we center our minds on what’s most important, and focus our hearts with an attitude of gratitude, and quite honestly it’s the perfect time to talk about what’s happening with the children or grandchildren. When else do you have a moment to look across the table (phones down and on silent please) and see into each others’ eyes what kind of day or week you’re having and have the ability to listen, be supportive or share in the joy of what’s going on. Witnessing each other’s lives is how we should do life…how we should do marriage…and it’s when we are too busy with careers, traveling or simply preoccupied with our own interests that we lose track of each other.

Our mutual commitment to “family” was the common thread

Just this fall, we had two new marriages in our family. My niece V. was the first of the grandchildren to get married. Needless to say, I was so excited when the aunts of the bride and groom began planning the bridesmaids luncheon. With both families having very southern family traditions as the inspiration and our mutual commitment to “family” as the common thread, the theme to our luncheon was born. Although it took all of us “aunts” (many of us are very involved in the floor covering industry here in Dalton) to pull it off, the event was truly southern. Preparations included polishing of the heirloom silver punch bowl, the planning of the color scheme of our table settings, several arrangements of fresh cut flowers, jeweled bird napkin rings, white woven table linens from Italy, layers of gold chargers, blue, white and gold luncheon plates, blue and white porcelain salad plates and the cobalt crystal goblets, all filled with the bride’s favorite southern goodies of fresh fruit, candied bacon, deviled eggs, and southern chicken salad with pecans and fruit. With family and commitment to one another in love, the mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers wedding photos were framed in silver picture frames to serve as a means for each to share their words of wisdom on how to begin a life together from their experiences. The combined wisdom was well over a century of marriage and left everyone with both tears and laughter, just like life, it can be sweet, sad and funny, sometimes all at once. We ended the luncheon with a prayer and a toast to love and a life surrounded with the family we all cherish so much. These special and even daily occasions need not be expensive, formal or overly cumbersome. It can be flowers picked in the back yard or along the road side placed into a vase (or a jar) that makes you smile and sets the scene for something to be memorable, and to nurture the human spirit.

Go ahead ~ use the good stuff for every day occasions!

Every time Don or I are apart for a day or two at the most, we look forward to our “back porch time” together. I am sooooo old-fashioned and perhaps wise to the precious gift that life and love are, and shower Don and my family with love the moment they walk in the door. Life really is a gift and if we are lucky enough to have love too, then it’s up to us to really savor it. At the risk of sounding like “Martha” I always keep some simple ingredients in my pantry like nuts, charcuterie, fresh apples or a variety of cheeses for when we want to “sit a spell” to talk, to watch the birds in the back yard or just enjoy the peace and quiet of our personal sanctuary from the outside world while we enjoy the latest shipment of wine or try something we picked up at CostCo. Do I use the good crystal? You bet I do…if we don’t use the good stuff now, when will we? There’s no point in leaving beautiful things wrapped or boxed up only to never be enjoyed. Besides good wine always tastes better in crystal.

Cheers to a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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