Having It Their Way
This morning while reading "Blood, Bones & Butter" by Gabrielle Hamilton, I was unexpectedly transported back to the town of Oggiono along the southern Alps in northern Italy. The author was speaking of a memorable trip to Europe one winter that had many misadventures including: being the coldest winter in 50 years, running low on cash and being very hungry as a result. While making her way east from Paris, she looked in the directory of names and phone numbers she'd been given by friends and family of people they knew across the continent. Despite her ego jabbing at her to go it along and not depend on anyone, she called up a guy living in Athens named Janus, hoping she might stay with him. Despite her worry of being imposing, Hamilton said his warmth towards her and how she was welcomed into his home and friend circle set an important example for her and how she runs her restaurant. Her standard for hospitality now comes from Janus who as she described proceeded to take care of everything rather than burden her with questions about choice. Her memory of how she was cared for left a lasting impact in her now saying, "I forever want to arrive somewhere hungry, thirsty and tired and to be taken care of the way Janus took care of me... I want to be relieved of possibly making poor decisions."
Back in September, I set out from St. Louis to the Milanese airport and then on to Oggiono. From there, it was about an hour ride to the town where we would stay but our driver got turned around multiple times, making our 60 minute trip into one that was well over two hours. We were jet-lagged, car sick and tensions were high. But then when we finally arrived at our bed and breakfast, we met our host, Paolo. The warmth he exuded from the first moment made me feel welcome and at ease. After we took a little while to settle into our guest house, Paolo began setting up an aperitivo ("happy hour") for us. He broke out some prosciutto, cheese, wine, bread, jam and butter. We dug into the comforting foods, which nourished us while we enjoyed great conversation and laughs with our new friend. There was no fuss made over this, it was simply how one was welcomed. The start of this simple welcome lead to us days later having dinner with his friends at a remote restaurant we never would've found high on a hillside.
Where this takes me when I think about our consumer culture and how I might think or behave at moments is the temptation to over-plan and curate things. Rather than enjoy the simple pleasures of something is the urge "have it your way", exactly the right foods and right wines and music rather than making available what I have and knowing how to quickly entertain with it. By making things easy on myself, I can enjoy the preparation and more confidently navigate it rather than scrambling through it haphazardly, stressing myself out and my guests. Its about doing little things simply and with care.
Go Forth Boldly
"Guests may think they're dining out to feel nourished, but I've always believed that an even more primary need of diners
is to be nurtured", Danny Meyer