We, Sri Lankans are always generous with what we have. Our hospitality is something we take so much pride in, a trait that is in-built in our blueprint. This inherited warmth and sincerity with an unassuming grace, we open our doors to anyone regardless of the country we live in. In our simple home or around our dinner table, it speaks volumes of generosity than grandiosity. However, for any Sri Lankans who try to assimilate our traditions to somewhat refine global entertaining there are key factors to pay attention to.
Greeting your guests with a simple Hi, or a form of Ayubowan with hands together is extremely important. This is a must practice etiquette that tells how we treat one another. Do not shy away, first greet and then introduce yourself to your guests. Half a smile, just showing up for a few seconds and disappearing into another room is a big no! I am sure you have worked really hard on the dishes you pre prepared, cleaning your home, tidying up the powder room, however you show the same effort to your presence when people come over. This very first gesture in entertaining means you pay attention to your guests needs if it is empathy, space for listening, dietary needs, or energy and time you are willing to spend on them. Remember, it’s all about making your guests feel welcome and content. When you focus on that you establish a genuine human connection.
Pay attention to the season
The purpose of considering weather is vital in entertaining. If it’s a scorching summer you can have a simple cold drink prepared such as Tinto de Verano ( I usually use a sweet red wine and sprite) with berries and mint or a lemonade mixed with Sprite, cubed ice and some mint leaves. If it’s chilly outside, offer a chai or black tea, mint tea is also popular among my guests. Prepare a pot, stack a collection of teacups on a table and you can simply direct your guests there once they feel settled in. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. If you are an overthinker like me, I will prepare a separate table for everyone’s taste which basically is a few bottles of wine and glasses for wine lovers, a pot of tea for someone who needs a cozy welcome, and some munchies to nibble on the side. When you are prepared like this, it’s less stressful and you don’t have to run around attending to everyone. This also means you have paid attention and created a warm welcoming atmosphere already.
Let’s sit down and slow our mind
If you have family members to help you please do assign some tasks so you don’t have to be everywhere at the same time. Sit down with your guests, set the slow pace established and make connections. This may include asking the right questions, listening to what your guests want to share or just making casual conversation.
Leave the phone aside, grab a drink, and be fully present. You can show them around the house, your garden, talk about new projects and hobbies you have started, new books you are eager to read. You know what I mean?
Do not rush the meal
Slowing down is a great way of transition to set the mood for a delicious meal. Start warming up some dishes that need to be served warm, let your guests help you to set the table, bring dishes one by one and make sure cutlery, napkins, enough water carafes, and wine glasses are already there. If it’s a sit down meal, you can set the table hours before your guests arrive, a buffet style is the same way but family style which I love is super easy to set up instantly.
Light the candles, get everyone to sit down and raise a glass to thank everyone who is there. Always, always make sure to add a few words of gratitude because it’s all about how you make someone feel. And practicing gratitude is a maturity and a sign that you are appreciative of every blessing in your life. This, I will never take for granted.
What to do after the meal
Usually everyone helps you to clean the table or you can ask for help which is perfectly normal. I sometimes sit with my guests afterwards and the conversation is organically grown. There is something you might need to pay attention to here which is you might find that just one person takes over everyone’s attention and it will be his/her night. To avoid such energy gabbers, as the host you might be mindful and probably start a different topic or ask someone their opinion on something in general. Remember, this is about everyone having a good time.
Offer a coffee or tea
This is usually a subtle cue to end a gathering and is a comforting ritual.
Each sip is celebrating a great meal, offering a moment of quiet reflection and togetherness. Once the coffee is brewed or chai is done simmering on the stove I often listen to my guests from the kitchen, their stories and laughter is so fulfilling. I feel so blessed almost every time because as the host it’s my moment to reflect on everything I do which is done with so much kindness and purpose. Do things intentionally and you will always end up with so much joy.
Entertaining is ultimately about making your guests happy, when you focus on doing that your joy is endless. The more you master how to simplify your menu which is delicious and not overly done, you have plenty of time to pay attention to people, that’s what makes you a great host. Happy entertaining!
By Udenie Wickramasinghe – Miami, Florida
Follow me on Instagram @mind_full-eats