In the Australian television program ‘My Kitchen Rules’, contestants turn their home into an instant restaurant. By preparing and serving a three course meal for the other contestants and judges they can compete to win a grand prize. And by filming the comments contestants make about each other, the show captures the competitiveness of the whole process. It makes me wonder, how do we feel about having people in our homes for a meal?
One American survey of consumers found forty per cent view cooking as a symbol of achievement and success. That certainly fits my impressions. With life being so busy and complicated, getting people to come to our home is a significant accomplishment, let alone enabling them to enjoy themselves!
But there is another dimension that strikes me as ironic. According to the same survey, nearly ninety per cent of people described their style of home entertaining as easy and informal. It seems many of us expend large amounts of effort in home entertaining, in order to make it appear easy! My impression is that we want to be able to get together and just relax and be ourselves, but that often turns out to be more difficult than we want it to be. In the western world, it seems like our solution to that is to find some friends and family we can do that with, then avoid messing it up by inviting anyone else.
Interestingly, the ideal of people relaxing, accepting one another as they are, and sharing time together at home, is pretty universal across time and culture. The Bible describes the community of the first Christians in Acts 2:42-47. One of the things described is that they “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God…” The point of this part of the description is not that Christianity reveals a unique idea that life would be good if people shared it together. Rather, the point is that the idea of the good life, in which everyone is treated like part of one big happy family, which every heart yearns for, is found in Jesus.
This being the case, we are free to be ourselves in the way we do home entertaining. But it would be a terrible tragedy if expressing our sense of easy style was such an effort, that it prevented us from actually inviting people over more than once a year. If that’s a danger, here’s an idea. Instead of only inviting people over for the best meal you will cook this year, invite people over for the worst meal you will cook this year. And encourage them to do the same for you. We could call it, ‘My Kitchen Sucks’.