Recovering the Art of Hospitality
We were trying to cook twelve eggs in two four-inch mini-frying pans. Not simultaneously, of course, but consecutively; I hadn’t had a chance to purchase a larger one. My little apartment kitchen was bustling.
“Anna, can you cut the oranges?”
“Bread and butter with honey, anyone?”
“Dominic, try flipping them this way.”
Having distributed eggs, pastries, fruit, bread, juice, and coffee to my friends, we sat back and started discussing whether or not submission would have characterized Eve’s relation to Adam before the fall.
“But of course, it would have.”
After a discussion of the theological implications of Genesis, we moved on to reading P.G. Wodehouse short stories. Such was Sunday brunch at my apartment last week.
The Art of Hospitality
Hosting such a gathering cost me something. “What is my money for?” I asked myself. Whatever the answer may be, it is most certainly bound up with giving hospitality to others and providing them with opportunities for joyful leisure. I would argue that lack of proper hospitality has not only stunted our ability to pursue leisure and the cultural fruits that result from it, it has undermined our ability to form deep friendships. We all desire close friends, and yet the conditions in which such friendships can grow are often lacking.
The art of hospitality and an understanding of its true value must be regained. Mitchell Kalpakgian, in The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization: How to Taste and See the Abundance of Life, writes: “While people may have many acquaintances and colleagues, true friendships are often absent because hospitality has become a lost art.” Hospitality not only includes the provision of food, but also extends to opportunities for enjoying art, music, literature, and games of both the board and field variety. The Greek epics, Kalpakgian points out, provide examples of such recreation; the Odyssey shows that storytelling, singing, and Olympic games are part and parcel with true hospitality, not just banqueting.
But what is hospitality? Kalpakgian writes that it “provides for the essential human needs of body, soul, mind, and heart. The combination of delicious food and drink, convivial conversation and marvelous tales, beautiful music and dancing,” all contribute to, in the words of Odysseus, “something like perfection.” Hospitality, then, is both physical and spiritual: it provides nourishment and a place of repose for our corporeal and spiritual faculties.
The Necessary Human Connection
Hospitality is not getting together to watch a movie, even if you provide chips and soda to go with it. Kalpakgian writes, “when television, video games, and the internet are substituted for human interaction, the personal, human touch is lost.” The importance of face-to-face human interaction cannot be over emphasized. Phones and TVs contracept hospitality. They are the condoms of conversation, encouraging association without eye-contact, and preventing the fruit of companionship from germinating in laughter, storytelling, and friendly argument. The college where Kalpakgian taught for several years, recognized this in a low-tech vision of its student life.
Books, musical instruments, games, and sports are better activities around which to center social gatherings. Only once a meaningful connection has been established can movies be occasionally enjoyed without stifling the communion hospitality is meant to encourage. The desperate search for distraction and entertainment that drives people to virtual reality arises precisely out of the vacuum created when enjoyment of the true, good, and beautiful in social gatherings is lost.
The encouraging and healing nature of hospitality cannot be overemphasized. “Amid the civilizing influence of hospitality, human beings recognize their sense of belonging and overcome their isolation. Oneness and solidarity follow when people enjoy a common meal, tell their life stories, and enjoy one another’s company,” says Kalpakgian. Quoting a Hawthorne story, he rightly claims that “an honest, hearty welcome to a guest performs miracles.”
The Cost of Hospitality
Hospitality requires effort and self-denial, both on the part of host and guest. Kalpakgian writes that “the cultivation of leisure, friendship, good cooking, and delightful story-telling are never learned if everyone is too busy, too tired, or too lazy to be the generous host or the gracious guest.” Hospitality can build deeper friendships because it takes us out of relating to each other as colleagues in terms of “productivity, efficiency, and titles.” Rooted in the “down-to-earth and homespun,” hospitality gives people a chance to learn meaningful things about one another.
If food is not an essential feature, it is still nearly inseparable. It meets the most basic needs of the body, while indicating a disposition of goodwill on the part of the giver. For the recipient, grateful acceptance of what is placed before him indicates willingness to accept the extended invitation to personal communion. All this extending and receiving contributes to healing the isolations wrought by a tech-oriented culture.
While treating various female friends to coffee necessitates dodging the occasional charge of being a “ladies man,” I remain a firm believer that “friend dates” have a healthy place in the art of hospitality. An important part of developing friendships is making opportunities for getting to know someone in individual settings. This should lead back to and enrich the hospitality of larger groups.
Of course, this can be a sticky situation for young singles as one doesn’t want to accidentally send or invite romantic signals. Yet, all other things being equal, “friend-dates” should have a perfectly acceptable place in the lives of young men and women. If better acquaintance with someone develops into a romance, this is hardly a cause for woe. In later life we see friend dates play-out differently: married women meet each other in twos and threes, while their husbands cultivate friendships with other men. While different expressions answer different needs at different stages of life, the principle remains the same.
Hospitality need not be costly. For simplicity and frugality, one can draw guests into community by inviting them to help prepare food, clean the kitchen, or watch children. The goal is making friends. A little can go a long way—and with joy. Like frying eggs in four-inch frying pans.
But I’ll be acquiring a larger pan soon. Which brings us back to our original consideration: one of the best uses money can be put to is facilitating hospitality, whether in the home or coffee shop. Money is, of course, for coffee with friends!Julian Kwasniewski
is an American musician, writer, and artist. Born in Austria, he divides his life between the Wyoming wilderness and Europe. His writing has appeared in numerous venues including The European Conservative, OnePeterFive, and Crisis Magazine. You can find some of his artwork and music on Etsy and YouTube.• Get SALVO blog posts in your inbox! Copyright © 2024 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/post/money-is-for-coffee