Hospitality’s true meaning

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Karen Brucoli Anesi/Special to the Herald

I don’t usually attach photos to my blog, but this one tells the story better than words.

Friday night my husband and I had dinner with friends who are both pushing retirement age, but neither is quite ready to give up the ghost. These two are my “East Coast” friends – Long Island transplants with opinions, no problem giving advice and an ability to cut to the chase. In other words, they are family.

A couple of years ago, the two picked up a pool table. The excuse for getting together without a plan is that they bought this pool table, so all of us need to use it.

No one can play pool without eating and drinking, and that’s the point of this blog. Each time we go to their home, we meet folks we’d never otherwise meet. Food introduces us to each other.

I usually bring something that includes DiRusso’s Italian sausage, San Marzano tomatoes, Regianno Parmesan, polenta or olives. Despite local delis that can provide us with whatever we want, I fly with food. Like the others who congregate around the pool table, I travel with a stinky airline bag packed with local “finds” from grocery stores. None of this impromptu food goes together, of course, but that does not matter.

Whenever we go to the Powers’ home, we can count on fresh baked artisan bread, crusty with sea salt, poppy seeds, onion and garlic. Ollie bakes the bread her Ukrainian parents likely introduced to her, but with the chewy density of bakeries back East.

She often brings out a big jar of feta soaked in oregano, red pepper and canola oil – another signature creation she crafted after trying a commercial product that screamed “do not try this at home.”

What I love about visiting the Powerses is that they are fearless cooks who will try whatever strikes them as interesting. They make it easy for their guests to show up empty-handed or with kitchen disasters. All will have good time, regardless of what ends up on the table.

These are hosts who have figured it out – it’s not the food that makes for a great party, but it’s the fellowship.

Food can tell a story. It can be a bridge to connect our past with our present. Or, it can be used to intimidate or divide people from each other. It can be used to impress or “define” a party.

When Jim displayed his box cake, iced so terribly that guests warned it was time to take up a collection so he could go to a cake-decorating class, it said it all – this gathering is not about party hosts strutting their stuff, but about displaying their confidence and generosity around the kitchen table.

That’s why their friends look forward to return invitations.

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