Leaving Home

I hosted the first party in my Steubenville home on January 2, 2005. I’d only closed on the house a few hours before, but that didn’t stop me from calling up a half-dozen friends and inviting them to join me for dinner. We ordered Chinese, laid out a blanket on the floor of the empty living room, and ate off paper plates. It was a glorious evening.

I hosted my last party in my Steubenville home this past Friday night. There were too many of us to sit around the table, so we ate in the living room this time too. Only, there’s furniture there now. Life has gotten more comfortable over the past 12 years. The food has gotten better too. For the occasion (introducing my home’s soon-to-be-new-owners to some of my closest friends), I cooked one of my fanciest and easiest pasta dishes. Guests sipped martinis, and we all ate off my pretty English china. It also was a glorious evening, albeit with a touch of melancholy.

Looking Back

Twelve years ago, when we ate Chinese on the living room floor, there was the promise of more parties to come. On Friday, the promise was gone. In its place, however, was gratitude for parties past.

There was gratitude for Thursday Night Dinners—my once weekly dinner parties where children ran wild through the house and dozens of grown-ups found seats wherever there they could—sofas and chairs, basement floors, front porch railings, and garden beds.

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Pinterest Lies: The Secret to Successful Entertaining

In 2015, at the ripe old age of 39, I have a fancy new stove, a pretty little kitchen, and grown up dinner plates to match. When I have people over for dinner, I try to make the most of those things. But it hasn’t always been this way.

The first two years I lived in my house, I cooked dinner for 20-plus people every week in a kitchen that bore more than a passing resemblance to a crack den. The walls were nothing but bare, unpainted, crumbling concrete. The floor was covered in filth that I couldn’t wash off. Only one side of the sink worked. And from there, it got worse.

Here are some not so pretty detail shots for you.

The stove hood

Behold the glory of the stove hood.

One of the nicer kitchen walls.

 

No, that’s not dirt on your screen. It was my floor.

My classy plumbing solution.

 

As for the meals, they were good, but simple. I mean, you try cooking fancy food for 20 people on a decades-old range with only three working burners and an absolute inability to reach an internal temperature higher than 350 degrees. Not surprisingly, we ate mostly soup and pasta.

If Pinterest were to be believed, not a single person should have shown up for those dinner parties. There were no quail eggs laced with truffle oil. People didn’t dine off china plates that I hand-painted myself. No crafty mason jar chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Mostly, there was just construction dust. And a lot of it.

Yet those 20-plus people kept coming back week after week. They didn’t care that the city probably should have condemned my kitchen. Or that none of my silverware and plates matched. All they cared about was that at my home they felt known and loved. The food helped…but really, it was just an excuse to bring people together. It was the means. It wasn’t the end.

Although, admittedly, it was a pretty tasty means.

Soup 2

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What is The Catholic Table?

Food matters.

It matters because it nourishes our bodies and nourishes our souls.

It matters because it draws friends and family together, around one table, creating community over a shared loaf of bread.

Above all, it matters because two thousand years ago, God became Man. He lived, loved, then died upon a cross. And every day since that day, bread has become God. Wheat and wine have become Body and Blood, an eternal sacrifice of love, offered for us on a table like no other.

In that sacrifice—that Holy Eucharist—we see God for who he is: a generous Lover, a selfless Giver. In that same Holy Eucharist, we see food for what it is: a sign given to us at creation of blessing and gift, nourishment and strength, pleasure and comfort, sacrifice and love.

Stacked Toasted CheeseSpinach

 

 

 

 

 

SP 3

Cheese

 

 

 

 

 

Just to see those truths, however, is never enough. With the seeing, comes two challenges.

First, we’re challenged to love God with the same total, selfless love with which he loves us, becoming, in effect, a gift, for him and for others.

And second, we’re called to eat eucharistically (eucharistia meaning, literally, “thanksgiving)—honoring God, creation, and the gift of our bodies by approaching every meal with gratitude, temperance, and joy.

Around my dining room table, those two challenges perpetually intersect. People come for dinner and come back for community. We pray. We debate. We laugh. And, of course, we eat, all the while learning to better love God and one another.

For me and for the friends who sit around my table, food does what it’s supposed to do: It creates family. And it does that not because I’m some Cordon Bleu trained chef. I’m not. I’m just a woman who wants people to know how precious they are—to me and to God. Because God shows us that truth every day by feeding us with his Body and Blood, I do the same by feeding everyone who walks through my door.

That’s really all I do. I love, so I cook. And it works. In a world wracked by loneliness, where more than half of all Americans claim to have no close friends, a little love and a lot of cooking go a long way.

Risotto

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