My mother didn’t entertain very much. No cocktail parties; no invitations to dinner. That doesn’t mean that we dined alone: our relatives had a habit of just showing up around mealtime. I can’t remember anyone ever knocking on the door, though. They just walked in and called out “Hello?” (It is one of my pet peeves and the reason why I usually keep my doors locked at all times.)
My uncle and his family had their timing perfected. For years, my Aunt and Uncle and two cousins would walk in just as we sat down to Sunday dinner. The dialog would go like this:
Mom (to me): I don’t believe it. Does Elvira ever cook?
Aunt Elvira: Oh, gosh. Are you eating? I just said to Jack that we didn’t want to interrupt your meal. Go ahead and eat. We’ll wait in the living room. Don’t mind us.
Mom: Come on in and sit down. I’ll get more plates.
Aunt Elvira: Well, we’ll just sit and chat with you. I couldn’t eat a bite, though. We had a huge breakfast at my sister’s this morning. I couldn’t eat a thing.
Uncle Jack: Could someone pass the mashed potatoes, please?
Aunt Elvira: Oh, is that a pork roast? Maybe I’ll have just a sliver of it.
My cousins: Can we have some of that apple pie?
And so it went. It didn’t matter what food was on the table, it was eaten with great gusto because it was well prepared and (let’s be honest here) free. Roast chicken, casseroles, pot roast, ham: it didn’t matter to them. It was eaten until it was gone.
As much as I hated seeing uninvited company come marching through our back door, I’ve come to think of that time as the Good Old Days. That’s because I live in the age of the foodie. No more do we eat whatever our host serves. We don’t politely eat something we don’t care for and exclaim how wonderful it is.
We critique. We dictate. We change the menu. We have special dietary requirements.
I invite friends to dinner. They accept. Then the fun begins:
Guest A: Will it be gluten free?
Guest B: I should tell you I’ve stopped eating meat. Oh, and I’m allergic to nuts.
Guest C: Joe and I would love to come and are looking forward to it. Did I mention that Joe is diabetic?
Guest D: Don’t worry about me. I’ll eat anything — except vegetables. Bill, on the other hand, only likes chicken, corn, and mashed potatoes.