Ahhh, the dinner table … round or rectangular, wooden or plastic, regular or café height … there it sits, waiting for you each day. What’s on yours right now? Homework? Junk mail? One of those fancy scented candle centerpieces? Nothing? (If that’s you, please email me with your tips on how you got it that way!)
My dad comes from a big family. He’s one of 8 kids: 4 boys and 4 girls, and as a child, I heard many stories about the … misadventures … that took place around his family’s table (a big picnic table with two long benches).
One evening, my dad, not one to appreciate the merits of beets, tried to take some from the bowl and then put them back quickly before anyone noticed. But his aim was off, and instead of putting the beets back in the bowl, he dropped them in his glass of milk. “Yesss!” he thought. “Now I don’t have to drink my milk OR eat my beets!” But then his mother, neither easily fooled nor overly sympathetic, made him do both.
And then there was the time where my dad and his brothers slipped their peas into their napkins and sneaked off one at a time to the bathroom to “dispose” of them. But one brother (the youngest, I’d imagine) didn’t understand the plan. He put the peas in the trash can instead of the toilet. Dad went into the bathroom and … well, let’s just say he wasn’t easily fooled or easily sympathetic either.
And let’s not forget the Thanksgiving when my dad’s oldest brother was asked to check the turkey. He took the bird out of the oven and set it on the open oven door. But alas … the door wasn’t prepared for the weight of a turkey big enough to feed a family of 10. It promptly bent backwards, the turkey flipped onto the floor, and the first Thanksgiving slip and slide was created.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg … my dad grew up in the 50’s, and the nightly dinner menu included healthy doses of beets, Brussels sprouts, liver, onions, liver and onions together, cabbage, ham, and creamed spinach. Despite this (or maybe because of this!), my dad and his three brothers grew up to be excellent cooks. Go visit one of my uncles and you’re certain to receive a 5 star dinner: Pork loin with fresh mango salsa. Zucchini Parmigiana. Roasted red peppers with sausage and rosemary. Hazelnut crème puffs. Chocolate truffle cheesecake. Homemade almond biscotti. The list goes on, and let me tell you … the list is delicious.
I discovered the key to these dinners during a visit with one of my uncles. “Why is it,” my dad asked him, “that we all like to cook so much?” My dad owned a catering business at the time, and perhaps he was mystified that out of the ashes of liver and onions arose such gourmet meals. “It’s simple,” my uncle replied. “It’s not that we like to cook, it’s that we like to EAT!”
And there it was … they like to EAT! Cooking was merely the necessary means to a desired end. Fortunately for me, my dad also has a strong gift of hospitality. This means that in addition to enjoying a good meal, my dad used his cooking to bless our neighbors. Indeed, many of my best childhood memories involve our dinner table crowded with excellent food, good friends, and lots of laughter.
So now I have my own household … my own dinner table with children and a husband that gather around it (don’t teach them that pea trick, ok?) and my own opportunities for hospitality.
Eating is one of the world’s oldest rituals, so it stands to reason that the dinner table is a natural place to extend hospitality, and it’s a terrific place to engage in a little missional living. After all, everyone eats!
Have you ever thought of your dinner table as a place of blessing? Which of your neighbors could you bless by simply inviting them over for dinner?
I want to see my neighbors come to know Christ. So if extending some hospitality is part of the means to that end, then I’m gonna make some hot dogs and brownies and invite them over! (So I can’t cook like my uncles. Don’t judge.)
I want my neighbors to view my home as a place where they’re welcome, and I want my daughters to receive a legacy of hospitality like I did from my dad. I want them to remember our dinner table as a place filled with laughter, friends, ministry, and food (both the 5 star and the boxed-brownie types). And I don’t want to wait until I have all my ducks in a row (or all the homework off the table). I’m not trying to impress anyone – real life is messy sometimes, but there’s a lot of joy to be had in sharing that life with those around me.
So how about you? Who can you share your dinner table with? It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just dust off your centerpiece and … well, remember not to rest the turkey on the oven door. To get you started, here’s a recipe. It’s one of my favorite “invite people over and make something good but very easy” recipes. I hope it blesses you AND your neighbors!
Maple Apple Chicken Burgers
For the sauce:
¼ C mayonnaise
2 T real maple syrup
1 T Dijon mustard
Mix these together in a small bowl and set aside
For the burgers:
About 2/3 of one tart apple peeled, cored, and chopped – Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples work well
1 lb ground chicken
2 T real maple syrup
1 t Italian seasoning
¼ t salt
¼ t pepper
6 hamburger buns (pretzel buns and potato buns are especially good!)
6 Bibb lettuce leaves
Mix burger ingredients together and shape into 6 balls. The mixture will be loose, but that’s ok. To cook the burgers, either grill them on a well oiled grill grate over medium heat or cook them on the stovetop in a non-stick skillet coated with non-stick spray, 5-7 minutes per side.
To assemble the burgers, put one patty on each bun and top with one lettuce leaf and 1 T of the sauce.