macaroni and cheese

The Gift of Hospitality

As a child growing up on a farm in Southwest Georgia, it was not uncommon for family and friends to drop in for an unexpected visit.  It was also not uncommon for my mother to greet them at the door with a smile on her face and say:  “Ya’ll come on in. Now, ya’ll just sit down and talk to Roy, (my daddy) and I will have supper ready in one hour.” And as they would say in Georgia:  “You can bet your sweet britches that in one hour flat, a spread would be on her table --- three vegetables, 2 meats, macaroni and cheese, and oh yeah, fried corn bread.”  Guests would remark:  “I never met anybody that could whip up that much vittles in such a short period of time.”

What amazed me was that Mother never sat down to eat with her guests.  She was up serving them --- filling their tea glasses before it got empty, and continuously saying:  “Ya’ll eat now, you hear!”  “I’ve got plenty more food left in the pots in the kitchen.”

And then there were the holidays. “Oh, my goodness!”  She baked tons of finger-licking goodies and cakes on top of cakes.  My mother could have put Paula Deen to shame!  After the death of my daddy, she sometimes remarked:  “I’d love to get a job as a hostess at a restaurant.”  “I just love greeting people.”

Yes, Mother definitely has The Gift of Hospitality.

What do we mean by “The Gift of Hospitality”?  Rather than define this gift, it is easier to describe it.  People with this gift:

  1. provide an environment where people feel valued and cared for
  2. meet new people and help them to feel welcomed
  3. create a comfortable setting where relationships can develop
  4. set people at ease in unfamiliar surroundings
  5.  friendly, outgoing, trusting, sociable and relational caring
  6. they are the greeters at church, the potluck host, hospitality dinner team leader   (Adapted from Cyber-Space Ministries)

In the book of Romans, Ephesians, and 1 Corinthians, various gifts are listed that God has given us.  However, 1 Peter 4:7-10 specifically calls out for HOSPITALITY.

The end of all things is near.  Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  [NIV]

During this upcoming holiday season, the people with the Gift of Hospitality are about to “kick it up a notch,” as the famous chef, Emeril would say.  They don’t mind - - -they love it!  My Pastor, David Berkeheimer, says:  “the gift God has placed within an individual is the one they use with a minimum of effort, a maximum of joy, and with a maximum effectiveness.”

Back to my Mother:  She is 87 years old now, and her body no longer allows her to serve the way it once did.  Often I hear her say:  “It just kills me that I can’t cook up a big meal like I used to and have a crowd of people sitting around my table.”  That, my friend, is The Gift of Hospitality that is still in her heart.  Once God gives you a gift, no matter what it is, the passion for it never leaves you because that was the way He created you to serve others and bring honor to Him.

I just know that when Mother gets to heaven, she is going to be standing at the Pearly Gates waiting for all her family and friends to arrive.  I can just hear her saying:

“Ya’ll come on in. Now ya’ll sit here and talk to Jesus, and I will have supper ready in one hour.”

Tasty Mac and Cheese

Some say that macaroni and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food. While I agree, this old-time favorite makes a special appearance  just a few times during the year in my household.  As well,  holiday meals are simply incomplete without this cheesy indulgence.  Just a few years ago, I remember making a special trip to the grocery store on Christmas morning because this all important dish was not included on the menu -- the family was in uproar!!

Try it out and you may never go back to the 'box'!

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups organic whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ - ¾ cup Sautéed Onion & Garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups grated Cheddar (about 6 ounces)
  • ½ cup Asiago Cheese
  • Tex-Joy or season salt

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain well.
  • Sauté onion and garlic in the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the flour, and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to let the flour brown.
  • Using a whisk, add the milk in a steady stream and cook, whisking constantly, until thick and smooth, 4 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat.
  • Add the salt, pepper, Tex-Joy or Season salt, and 2 cups of the cheese, and stir well.
  • Add the noodles and Asiago cheese and stir well.
  • Pour into the prepared dish.
  • Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.