I learned many lessons from yiayia, especially when we spent time in the kitchen. She taught me a lot of lessons, special recipes and a lot about love. Growing up I learned traditions and customs when it came to hosting people for dinner or events and ways to show kindness when I was a guest in someone else’s home. One lesson she passed to my mom and me was to never go to someone’s house empty handed. Whenever we went to dinner or were invited over we always had a plate of pastries, a tea towel, wine, a jar of olives, or some other type of gift that was unique to the person hosting. As an adult that custom lives on. I, to this day, feel very uncomfortable showing up to someone’s house without a gift. This is one of the main reasons I have sought out items for the store which can be taken to a home for a holiday celebration, a dinner, or just because you were invited to their home. You will see wooden spoons, towels, and more recently beautiful kitchen decor from Onecreativemommie which can be fabulous holiday gifts for the host.
Emily Post, a famous name in etiquette, has recommendations on what types of gifts to bring. Historically a gift would fit with the meal. So, you might bring something you can use to hold water, a serving spoon, etc. Typical gifts brought to a home for a dinner party or holiday are wine, dessert, a box of chocolate and flowers. Over time I have given a lot of thought to what might be appreciated and helpful, but not necessarily related to the current meal or celebration. For example (and it’s mentioned in the Emily Post article as well) many people have already picked the wine they will serve with their meal. Flowers are lovely, but it’s one more task for the host to stop, find a vase, fill it, trim the ends and find a place for it. Not to discount the generosity and beauty of a flower gift, but it’s something to consider.
My husband is a wonderful cook. He loves to prepare meals and entertain. He is incredibly picky about his menu and finds it hard to have people bring dishes because it changes the dynamic and presentation of his food. So, I have come to understand from him that bringing a dish may not be something that is helpful. If you come to our house for a meal, you are welcome to be empty handed. I understand anyone brought up the way I was might feel uncomfortable with that. So, I have a list of things that will be helpful (that aren’t food) when someone asks what they can bring.
As an older person, I understand the restrictions that come with this tradition. Sometimes we have been short on time, sometimes we have been short on money and gifts weren’t an option. We were honored to be invited and enjoyed the company. I had to shed my insecurities about showing up empty handed. I have a sneaking suspicion I was the only one concentrating on it. However, there are some times when I have time, we have the money and I am excited to bring a unique and special gift that I know will make the host smile. In those cases, if the gifts in the shop fit that criteria and it helps you find a gift that is just right for your host, then that makes me incredibly happy.
Annie Falk said, “Allow food and drink to become the catalyst for sparking conversation, the exchange of ideas, and memories in the making.”
So, although a host gift can be fun and something to consider, I do understand now that there is some wiggle room in that tradition. The most important thing we have with those we love is time. That remains the greatest lesson I learned from yiayia. Being together over a table of food is an incredible way to create memories and traditions. Regardless of how full your hands are when you arrive, the true value of the event will be the time spent together. That gift will be one that lasts for years and quite possibly for generations.