Cooking for the Culinary-Challenged
You don’t have to be a fabulous cook to practice hospitality!
Quite frankly, most people you invite into your home aren’t going to care what you serve. They will just be thrilled with an invitation into someone else’s home. The opportunity to establish connections with others is one of the greatest needs of our society today and certainly a need of the church. I applaud the newer generation of young adults who emphasize making connections and forming relationships with others by doing community, service, Bible study and discipleship, and many times meals with one another. It is a direction the church has needed to explore for a long time. Practicing hospitality can be as simple as having a few friends over for hotdogs, chips and outside games, or something like a supper club where everyone participates by bringing a dish and then playing games or just talking afterward.
Paul exhorted the Roman Christians to practice hospitality. So what does that actually mean for us today?
The original language indicates the idea of pursuing, striving for, seeking after, or aspiring to be hospitable to others—especially strangers. Yet, how many of us can truthfully say we are fully and earnestly engaged in the practice of hospitality in our churches, in our neighborhoods, or even in our own homes? In what ways can the Biblical Woman practice hospitality—especially if that is not her spiritual gift?
Practicing hospitality is not something my family did when I was growing up. I was introduced to the concept through my husband’s family who always had company over for periodic dinners and cook-outs. They also included non-family members in holiday traditions which was a new concept for me. So, practicing hospitality can certainly be a learned accomplishment. It does not need to arise because of a spiritual gifting, nor is it necessary that you or your family practiced hospitality when you were growing up.
Practicing hospitality also does not mean you have to have some gorgeous or expensive home you want to showcase to others.
When we started having people over to our home in the first few years of our marriage, we lived in an apartment with beautiful yellow-gold shag carpet! Well, maybe it wasn’t quite so beautiful. We had a small, galley kitchen which no more than two people could be in at any given time, and everyone had to climb three flights of stairs to get to our apartment. “Home” was extremely modestly decorated with used furniture and cheap wall furnishings. But nobody seemed to mind. We would eat and laugh together and sometimes play games together. And, did I mention that I could barely cook at this point in my life? You don’t have to be some elaborate, gourmet cook, have a large, beautiful home, or even have experience with the custom of opening up your home to others.
If you’re ready to start opening your home but don’t know how to cook, fret not! One of the first steps is to start building your recipe repertoire. Here are a few suggestions I would recommend to today’s less-than-kitchen-savvy Biblical Woman to get started practicing hospitality in your own home:
1. Learn to cook a few basic recipes.
If you are like me and your mother failed to teach you how to cook, find someone who cooks well and ask them to tutor you. There is nothing quite like being in the kitchen with someone and learning their shortcuts, how to follow or adapt recipes, and what all the different culinary terms mean. Ask them if you can help them in the kitchen for a couple of hours a week. You can also take a cooking class. Or maybe you will be fortunate like I was and your husband will teach you how to cook. (Side note: I made sure both our kids learned how to cook when they were growing up so they didn’t start out as inept in the kitchen as I was).
2. Find three or four different “go-to” dishes.
Main dishes, three or four different kinds of salads, three or four types of side-dishes, a few diverse ways to fix potatoes or rice, and seven or eight ways to make desserts. Ok, you are asking yourself, where am I supposed to find these recipes? Go to the good cooks in your church, or if you have family members or relatives who cook well, go and ask them for some of their easy but delicious recipes. This is even better if you have actually tasted the recipes so you know how they should turn out. My personal blog, Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen, has dozens of excellent recipes that the Biblical Woman need not be afraid to try even if she is brand new to the realm of cooking. Check out out my Strawberry-Kiwi Spinach Salad, Italian Cavatini, and Strawberry Twinkie Dessert (3 ingredients – SO EASY) for starters!
3. Practice your timing and get cooking!
After you find several good recipes, learn how to time your preparation and cooking time so everything is done at the same time. Then, start inviting people over for dinner. Don’t feel like you have to invite the whole Bible study group over at one time. Start with one couple, or a couple of friends. Most people will ask if they can bring something. If you already know what you’re going to be serving ask them to bring a side dish or salad, garlic bread, or even a dessert if you don’t have time or the inclination to prepare it along with everything else. You will also find that when people are bringing something there will rarely be cancellations to your dinner!
Practicing hospitality is a spiritual gift but it is also an exhortation in Scripture. As Biblical Women, we need to be involved in it; it is one way God’s kingdom grows and multiplies. My husband John and I have one rule of thumb: “Rarely will you fight with someone you have had over to your home for a meal.” Practicing hospitality by eating meals together builds unity, love, friendship and fellowship, cohesion and connection that cements and strengthens relationships in your church, in your neighborhood, and in extended family. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart or the next Food Network Star to cultivate this practical and meaningful ministry!
Bauer, Walter, Frederick William Danker, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Christian Literature. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 254, 1058.