Lately I’ve been ruminating a lot on hospitality – what it means, who we choose to share it with, and how Tim and I are usually on the receiving end of it. When I think back, there are a few specific families who have been overwhelmingly warm, gracious, and inviting to us. Each one has had a profound impact on me. The unmerited generosity that others have shared with us has changed the ways I think about hospitality, the ideas and fears I carry about opening my home to others, and the thoughts I have about food and faith and the ways these two are intertwined.
In college, my friend Brandon’s family would have us down to his house every Thanksgiving, Easter, and Superbowl weekend. They extended the invitation to everyone who was willing to hop in a car and drive a few hours to their home in Indiana. Sometimes this meant their downstairs guest room had just a couple girls sharing the queen sized bed for the weekend. Other times their house was packed to the gills with 20-something 20-somethings ready to cheer on their favorite team for the big game. Lots of my favorite college memories took place at their home, cuddled on a couch with my roommates, playing ridiculous games and laughing till our sides were sore, sharing conversation over Thanksgiving dinner or Easter brunch with all the leaves in the table – every card table and spare chair wrangled up from the basement or a closet somewhere, to make room for everyone to squeeze in.
And then there’s my dear friend and college roommate Lauren’s parents. Her family bought us all Megabus tickets to visit them in St Louis for Passover one year – what a joy to share in so much tradition with them. One afternoon when they were in Wheaton to visit Lauren, I remember them taking us to Target. Lauren’s dad gave me strict orders, “THIS is a magical shopping cart!” he exclaimed, pointing at the red cart rolling along in front of him, “Anything you place in the magical shopping cart will get purchased!” I remember laughing at the ridiculousness of it and I tried to brush off his offer, insisting that I didn’t need anything. He gave me a serious look and added, “And you WILL put things in the magical shopping cart!” What a gift for a poor college student (who wouldn’t admit how poor she was) to receive! But that wasn’t the last of it. They also flew me home so I could surprise my parents during my first Thanksgiving away at college. And again when my dad was seriously ill in the hospital, just having been diagnosed with leukemia. My parents couldn’t afford to fly me home, and I don’t even really remember how it came about, but somehow I was on a plane to Raleigh to visit my dad at Duke – Lauren’s parents had paid the way.
There’s also the Pratt family who Tim and I love so dearly! Adam and I photographed our first wedding together several years ago and he photographed our own wedding the following summer. Cindy and Adam invited me to live with them and their four sweet kiddos the summer after graduation, before I headed back to North Carolina for our wedding. They taught me so much about using what you have to bless others, inviting people into your space no matter what, sharing meals and conversation and many late night snacks and chats in the kitchen before bed. They taught me to like figs and lamb burgers and fish sauce (and to NEVER under any circumstance sniff fish sauce straight out of the bottle). They showed me that kids will usually eat “weird” food if that’s what’s placed in front of them. They taught me that it’s okay to try new things. They showed me that living on one income, having a simple but beautiful home, homeschooling your kids, and feeding them well are all possible with great planning. Most of all though, I love that Adam and Cindy are great question-askers and great listeners. I remember so many late nights, sitting at their kitchen table and chatting through what I was learning about life and the Lord, about photography, about marriage, and sharing my dreams with them. They’re the kind of people that aren’t afraid to dig deep and ask the thoughtful and sometimes hard questions. What a gift.
These are just a few of the instances where we’ve been shown overwhelming and undeserved hospitality. I could share about the Haases who mentored us and walked alongside Tim and I as our friendship grew into dating grew into engagement and marriage, or the Wilcox family who opened their vacation home on Whidbey Island for us to live in for six weeks while we searched for jobs in Seattle, or even the Cockle family we just met this past weekend while shooting a wedding in Wisconsin – they welcomed us into their home like we were their own children, they were passionately curious about our lives and our dreams, and they encouraged us in more ways than I can even explain or comprehend right now.
Now I wonder what to do with this? I’ve been shown the ways of warmth and welcoming others in, now how can I do that for those around me?
I believe it’s immensely important to invite others into our stories, to walk alongside us, to support and encourage us, so that we might learn from one another and spur each other on to better things. This is easier said than done, but it’s something I want to strive toward. I’d love to hear what you’re learning along these lines as well. How have you been shown overwhelming hospitality? How do you try to share it with others?
Remember how we talked about tofu a couple weeks ago? Here’s an opportunity to use your new-found tofu-pressing knowledge. You don’t have to put tofu in this recipe by any means – feel free to leave it out if you’d rather! But if you’re up for trying something new, I definitely recommend it in this protein-packed meal!
Feel free to mix up your veggies as well! Try adding some yellow bell pepper for extra color, leave out the edamame if you don’t have any on hand – do what you like! This recipe is by no means authentically Thai – I’m just currently obsessed with the Thai-inspired combination of green onions, cilantro, peanuts, and lime juice. Mmm. I could eat it all day long. Enjoy you guys!
- 3 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
- 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 Tbsp canned coconut milk
- 1½ Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- Dash of red pepper flakes
- Juice of 1-2 limes
- 1 package extra firm tofu
- 1½ cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
- 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
- 1 cup chopped green onions
- ¾ cup chopped peanuts
- ¾ cup freshly chopped cilantro
- Place peanut butter in a small bowl and microwave 10 seconds at a time until melted.
- Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and whisk together. Place in fridge till ready.
- Press the tofu for 20-30 minutes. I like to build my tofu-pressing station in this order - cutting board, clean towel, tofu, towel, cutting board, cookbooks. Make sure the books are evenly weighted. I use the extra cutting board on top to keep my books from getting soggy. Once the tofu has been pressed, cut into bite-size pieces.
- While pressing the tofu, rinse and drain the quinoa and cook according to the package directions. Usually 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water (1.5 c quinoa, 3 c water in this case) Set aside when finished.
- While quinoa is cooking, chop carrots, jalapeño, green onions, and cilantro. Heat edamame in a pan of water, according to package directions, and drain. (You can cover with cold water and drain again to keep them from overcooking while you assemble the rest of the meal.)
- Lightly oil pan and sauté tofu, turning occasionally until browned and heated through.
- In a large bowl, toss veggies, peanuts, cilantro, and tofu in with the quinoa and pour the dressing over the top. Stir to combine.
- Serve topped with additional green onions, peanuts, and cilantro, as well as lime juice and Sriracha (if you like it spicy.)