I have a relatively short list of pet peeves. It basically includes two things: people watching videos (loudly) on their phone in public (without earbuds) and people showing up to my house without calling first. If you know me, you might find this tidbit to be a little shocking, but in spite of this, I still consider myself to be quite the delightful hostess.
Growing up, I spent a few summers in Mobile, Alabama visiting my grandmother. She always made a huge southern-style breakfast, even on a week day. The stove would come alive with simmering stick-to-your ribs deliciousness. I remember being puzzled by the size of the pot she used to prepare her hot and savory grits. It seemed to hold way more than the folks occupying the house could handle.
I would sit there in my pajamas and watch her move through the kitchen with great focus and purpose and before you knew it, someone was walking through the front door. This was a common occurrence. The neighbors would catch a waft of that thick country bacon and make their way over, well before 7:00 a.m. (I come from a long line of early risers)
There were people who stayed for hours, sometimes even long enough to enjoy the evening meal. Others just stopped by to have a cup of coffee and a biscuit before heading off to work. Regardless of the amount of time you spent, she welcomed you with a warm hello and a seat at the table. There was never any need to call, wait for an invitation, or even knock at the door.
My grandma is no longer alive, but I wonder sometimes if the new occupants of her home have a similar tradition. As I think back on those breakfasts, I admire her willingness to share whatever she had with her neighbors in spite of her modest means. I also admire the relaxed and carefree nature of it all. She didn’t send out an evite, she didn’t have an elaborate tablescape, and 9 times out of 10 she was still in her robe and rollers.
I will fully admit that I am a sucker for a dinner party with a themed menu and a signature cocktail. However, there is something to be said for an uncensored and spontaneous gathering.
I love the idea of having more moments where people are together in my home and I want to be able to seize the opportunity to connect even when a surprise visit arises.
Luckily, I have come up with a solution that helps me to live somewhere in the middle of where I am and where I hope to be. It’s a simple list of items to keep on hand that will make you feel prepared, even if you are faced with the arrival of an unexpected neighbor or friend.
The Unexpected Guest Survival Kit
- Always have a hard cheese (such as parmesan), a cured meat, something briny like olives, and a dried fruit. These things keep forever and allow you to make a beautiful charcuterie board in a matter of minutes.
- Next time you make cookies, make an extra batch, portion them out, par freeze them on a tray, remove them and store them in a freezer safe bag. The beauty of this is that you only have to bake what you need.
Pro tip #1: Buy an extra box of cookie dough from your co-workers kid for little to no effort.
Pro tip #2: Buy a box of frozen French macarons. Pull these babies out of the freezer, sit them on the counter, and they are ready to eat in around 10 minutes.
- Keep a bottle of red wine, a bottle of white wine, and a sparkling flavored water or juice on hand at all times. Also, remember to have coffee and tea available.
- Serve your guest in the living room around the coffee table to keep it comfortable and casual.
Maybe you will never get to the point where you like the idea of someone coming over unannounced. Frankly, I think that is absolutely okay but…let’s all agree to worry less and to stop waiting for the perfect day, the perfect time, and the perfect conditions to come together.
In the end, the most beautiful encounters are rarely ever planned.