Reviving Hospitality

Yesterday I was with a group of ladies who are all my Mum’s age. We had a lovely morning tea at one lady’s home. The hostess laid the table out beautifully. Each place setting had a small plate with a napkin on it and on top of that was a tea cup and saucer with a lovely spoon. There was a selection of yummy things to eat as well as a nice sugar bowl and milk in a jug. The reason I am telling you this in such detail was because it really struck me as being quite beautiful.

The layout of the table made me sit straighter, pour my milk delicately into my cup and give a little tinkle tinkle with the spoon and then sip it oh so lady like. (I’m sure I even poked out my pinkie finger as I held my beautiful cup!). We said please and thankyou as we passed around plates with yummy snacks.

The ritual was really lovely. The actual beauty of the scene shaped our behaviour. It slowed us down and made us engage in the setting.

Hubby and I have often spoken about the loss of this tradition of having people over for morning or afternoon tea. Hubby speaks about his two old aunts. As a child he loved going over to visit because in a minute they could put together the most wonderful ritual of afternoon or morning tea. The house was always tidy and organised and they never had to jump in the car and run to the shop because they were out of milk!

I have very fond memories of going to my other Nanna’s house ( she died in 1999) She was actually my Godmother, but she was always treated like a Grandmother. Every time we visited her we were made to feel very special indeed. She ALWAYS laid out the table cloth and got out the “good cups” and in a few seconds could put together a spread that most of us would be in awe of. She could make the most amazing sponge cakes, all cooked in a wood stove. She was so amazingly resourceful. She even knew how to chop particular types of wood for different things she was cooking. I always remember her chopping ‘scone wood’.

Whenever anyone came to her house that knew her they always came to the back door. The back door opened onto a small veranda area and then you stepped up into the house. On the left just off the corridor and leading into the bathroom was the old concrete twin washtubs and her old washing machine. Not once on my entire life of going there did I ever have to step over her washing that hadn’t been done. Can you imagine if the main entrance into your home required your guests walking into your laundry – would you be proud of cringing ? Not once was her home messy, or she hadn’t washed up or had piles of ironing or the beds unmade. Even if we turned up unannounced!!!

In my generation, no-one does the ‘afternoon tea spread’. Although I do have some frugal friends that do coffee and home made goodies, generally speaking no-one my age even has anyone come to their home for a cup of tea !!!! If you want to catch up with friends you have to go to a coffee shop.

I believe that we have lost the art of hospitality. We can’t have anyone come over without two hours notice so we can tidy up! I’m not saying that this is everyone, it is just what I observe. We have all the labour saving devices yet we get so little done.

Before the days of mobiles and telephones, people used to go ‘visiting’ and just drop in on their friends. It was a usual occurrence. Scones were the usual accompaniment to a cup of tea because they were quick to whip up. Can you honestly say that if visitors dropped in unannounced you could whip up a batch of scones ? LOL How times have changed!

So...... In my quest to revive the old traditions I am going to revive morning or afternoon tea. Lots of people drop in for a coffee here, but I am going to make them feel that little bit more special. I will put down a table cloth ( oooooohhhhhhh) and use the ‘good cups’ (ooooohhhhhh) and my sugar and milk jug. I am not the scone maker in the house ( Hubby is) but I generally have some baked goods on hand. If not, there is always the trusty frozen biscuit dough already shaped so I can have cookies in about 12 minutes.

Everyone thinks, “oh, don’t go to any trouble”, but gee it is nice to “play ladies” it changes our behaviour and in a world where everyone is only looking out for themselves, it is nice to spread a little kindness and joy!

Are you a household that has lots of drop-ins who you are always prepared for or are you cringing at the thought of anyone knocking on your front door. I would love to know YOUR thoughts. Please leave a comment.


Tracie said...

I had a girlfriend over for lunch one day and I made an effort and got out the "good china" she said she was felt privledged and very special. I wish I had a little more time to do this more often. It certainly make people feel special.

Tracie xx

Angelena said...

What a wonderful post. We live very far out in the country and do not often have visitors. Usually once a week my friend and I get together over coffee at my house. I think I will have to get out my fancy cups and tablecloth and invite her up more often. Thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

When friends come over I love using the 'good china' and fancy spoons for tea. I also try and make or bake something yummy. Some friends say "oh why didn't you just buy a packet of biscuits" but most appreciate the effort and feel special. Plus I love cooking for people as it gives me a lot of joy.

Luckily though they don't have to step through the laundry on the way to the table ;-)

If you want to cheat a little you could make bisuits mixture in bulk, divide and flavour as you want, and then freeze. When guests arrive unexpectedly you can whip them out of the freezer, cut them up and bake. (people thing you are really organised then!)

Thanks for a great blog.

libby said...

love entertaining but do it mostly for lunch. I love the whole idea of having friends over for morning/afternoon tea but I've found it hard in that most of my friends work, at least part time. My one good friend who doesn't work lives an hour away. I'm also a little on the shy side which doesn't make it easy to make new friends whom I could have over.


Tania said...

Last year on Christmas day, I decided to get out my teacups and teapot with my little milk jug (I didn't have a nice sugar bowl though, must get one) and serve a good old fashioned cup of tea. Sadly, it is a great tradition that has fell by the wayside like a lot of others. But it is good that you can inspire people to revive it again. I love the last couple of your posts, they have got the old brain thinking again. Thank you.

Have a great weekend.

Chris said...

I've always preferred baking something for guests, rather than pre-bought stuff. Nothing beats the smell of an oven opening, with freshly baked goods wofting through the entire house.

I have a few tried and true biscuit recipes or apple & cinnamon muffins, which are quick and easy. I've even gotten back into making the old (eggless) contrary cake with lemon frosting. It was originally my grandmother's recipe.

But maybe because I'm lucky to have a visitor a week, and we live out of town (so people generally call first) that I have the time to cook before they arrive.

I don't do the fancy china stuff though. As a kid we use to visit a few relatives who were psycho about their china cabinets. So I kind of vowed that my visitors would feel at home in my home. I buy standard bulk produced crockery, which can easily be replaced - and placemats/coasters for the table.

The special touches though, are freshly picked flowers from the garden, and I also make sure they take home some of the baked goods.

han_ysic said...

I try and have good tea, and nice coffee, (freshly ground and brewed) and am working more at having the baked stuff to go with it. I do need to work on the house, making it look comfortable and welcoming, dishes are a big one for me. When it's just one, it's easy to let them build up for a few meals and then all of a sudden it's a mountain.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. I would love to drop in for tea!

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