I’m no comedienne, nor do I dance. I don’t do magic tricks. I can’t guess your weight and please, please, don’t try to guess mine.
However, I do fancy myself a particularly good entertainer, or host, whatever term you prefer. Especially when it comes to serving food. If you come to my house and stay for any length of time — even if you’re just delivering furniture or doing a plumbing repair — I will try to feed you. It’s just who I am.
No cable installer has left my house without being served a cold glass of water or a cup of coffee. No friend has ever sat at my kitchen counter without being offered a sandwich or cheese and crackers. No friends of my children have ever gone without a snack while visiting my home. And there are no restrictions — if it’s in my pantry or fridge, it’s yours to enjoy. Mi comida, su comida.
It doesn’t stop at home. I bring leftovers to work for my coworkers. My beau makes bad ass soups with holiday leftovers. If you work in my office building, you’ve probably had some of his ham bone or turkey soup.
I love to cook — that much is true — but I know it’s not about the cooking. A little while ago, I started to look at myself to determine my motivation for serving food and drink to any guest who crosses my threshold.
Theory #1: It stems from childhood.
Freud taught that adult behaviors stem from childhood experiences, so I started there.
My parents were not rich. My dad was a teacher and my mother stayed home with us until we were school age. When she did get a job, it was part-time.
Many times, my mom had to make a week’s full of meals for less than $20. I can remember her adding things up in the grocery story and saying, “No, we’ve got to put that back,” or getting to the register and needing to count her pocket change to cover her purchase. I remember her asking me several times if I had any change to cover one thing or another.
When my brothers and I got older, we ate like vacuum cleaners suck dirt. Whatever extra money we had from chores or odd jobs, we spent it on food. We’d get Philadelphia pretzels for a quarter or a hot dog and a soda at a center city vendor for a buck twenty-five. Having money meant having food.
It went farther than that, actually, when I consider my childhood friends. Friends that had full refrigerators seemed rich. To me, food meant a friend’s parents had means beyond those of my parents, even if they didn’t.
I spent 18 years and 11 months living in my childhood home — about 48% of my lifetime — where we stretched pennies to eat.
Maybe I have been conditioned to equate being wealthy to having a full pantry and enough to share.
Theory #2: It’s because I waited tables for tips.
For approximately 15% of my lifetime, I waited tables at restaurants. Someone once told me that learning how to serve in restaurants and for caterers is a skill I could fall back on when times got tough. Sure enough, after my divorce in 2011, that advice became reality.
It’s physically demanding work, but I loved waiting tables. I know how to read patrons’ cues — both conscious and unconscious. Body language. I am an attentive server, but not so much that my customers can’t enjoy their food. The key to being a good server is to always be available to customers. If they need you, they’ll gesture to you to come over.
I was also a bartender for a while. When I have a guest over, I find myself automatically assuming a bartender’s position. I find myself standing behind my counter while someone sits on the other side. Unless I’m asked to sit down, I’ll remain standing, serving.
Maybe I am compelled to serve because I want to know my guests are one hundred percent sated and happy.
Theory #3: It’s because I’m a mom.
I’m used to caring for my children. When my children were younger, I used to say that I never enjoyed a hot meal because my meal cooled while I was getting someone juice or milk or a spoon or wiping up a spill. (This is also the reason why I eat my food so quickly — an unhealthy habit, my beau often reminds me.)
I’ve been a mother for more than 12 years — about 32% of my lifetime — and that’s a long time to be serving others. Especially small, demanding, non-paying others.
Maybe I’m so used to caring for other people it has become my default position.
Conclusion: It’s who I am because of what I’ve experienced.
Author B.J. Neblett wrote, “We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences — be they positive or negative — make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives.”
I was a child and teen that always wanted more. I was a server that took great pride in her work. I am a mom, conditioned to care for others. These are the best definitions of who I am — and what I do — as it applies to this particular function.
I am the sum of my experiences.
If you’re ever in my area and happen to stop by for a visit, expect to be fed, have a drink, and enjoy great conversation. Because this is who I am — and I’m not planning on changing.
Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA is a freelance writer from Delaware. Follow her on Facebook — go to https://www.facebook.com/TheArdentReader19977/