Have you ever met someone and immediately felt they had a special something, that je ne sais quoi sparkle about them?
That’s the way I felt when I first met Kate. Funny thing is that we still haven’t met in real life (12 days until we do!), but we are kindreds— crazy for Jesus, family, food, and friends. I could tell you about the years she starred on stage in the King & I with Yul Brynner, or how she met her husband Mike, and the amazingly talented daughter they’ve raised, and the grandchildren she adores. There’s the book she’s written Growing Great Kids and the blog where she shares mouth watering recipes and words of faith and encouragement.
But, I think you’ll learn more about Kate Battistelli and her heart just from reading her story today. I’m honored to have Kate at the table, pull up a chair and hear what outrageous hospitality means to her.
The Christmas before dad died, we knew it would be his last. Due to heart issues and major gut problems, he needed too much help to live home anymore so they moved him to the VA Hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was clearly fading and his days with us were short.
A couple weeks before Christmas, I’d convinced my older sister to fly down from her home in Washington, DC to see him one last time. She’s an artisanal baker and the holidays are a crazy time for her but she heard the urgency in my voice and agreed to come down.
The VA takes good care of their patients but still, it’s a dreary and somewhat depressing place. I hated the fact dad was stuck there but mom wasn’t capable of taking care of him.
We talked about what we could do to celebrate dad. It would’ve been easy to simply meet in the dining hall and have a meal together but in our family, that would never fly. My parents were famous for entertaining and we knew dad deserved a spread. He deserved a par-tay with all the special foods he loved.
Mom reserved a private meeting room and my sister and I got busy preparing all the things dad loved, the foods marking our family celebrations. Mom is naturally given to hospitality and thankfully, all her children have it in their genes. She loves to fuss and cook and entertain and when she’s in charge, it’s going to be fancy!
She goes all out and her appetizers are classic. I don’t remember a holiday meal not beginning with bright Scottish smoked salmon on top of those little slices of rye bread from those tiny loaves at the grocery store, the ones in the crinkly wrapper. She’d coat each slice in cream cheese, add the salmon, a squeeze of lemon juice, cracked black pepper and capers and chopped red onion sprinkled on top. She’d even hard boil an egg and dice it fine to add to each little salmon canape.
Shrimp, always. Ice cold and jumbo, cooked and deveined at home. Never those pitiful little shrimp rings they sell. No way! Plump, jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce, liberally spiked with fresh horseradish and lemon juice.
Good liver pate was standard, served with crisp melba toast and those tiny French sour pickles called cornichon.
Two or three cheeses rounded out the appetizers and Graber olives from California, the best olives ever!
My sister, mom and I prepared all these foods for dad. The things he loved, the foods reminding him of better days and wonderful parties. Foods to let him know he was special to us and to remind him, he was worthy of a celebration.
We rounded out our party with homemade chicken salad on croissants, chocolate truffles and my sister’s amazing shortbread cookies.
The VA has strict rules about alcohol but there was no way this shindig was going down without champagne. So we hid a couple bottles in the cooler and after we set up the food, we opened them under the table and poured fancy French champagne into paper dixie cups.
We lit candles, played Christmas music, set a beautiful table with a linen tablecloth, real china and silver and transformed a staid meeting room into a fancy cocktail party for dad. He was having a pretty good day and he just beamed when we wheeled him in and saw us and all the fuss we’d made.
He couldn’t eat much but he appreciated what we were trying to do. He could feel our love and he knew we went the extra mile to do something special just for him.
Here’s what I know – outrageous hospitality is always about others. It’s about taking the extra step and bringing comfort and healing wherever He leads us. And this particular day, He led us to outrageously shine His love to a dying man who could never return the favor. But a man who knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he was deeply loved. Sometimes? It’s about doing the most for the least of these.
Thank you, Kate, for sharing such an intimate picture of outrageous hospitality. That je ne sais quoi that makes you sparkle? I think we all know how, why and for Whom you shine. Y’all go hang out at Kate’s table today. She’s got a gorgeous new website and and a delicious salmon recipe waiting. You’ll be blessed.
Day #11 Table Talk: What is the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?