The Queen came and went this week (the British hat obsession is a constant source of fascination to me). On her Canadian tour, she got a Blackberry from Waterloo researchers, stopped by a film studio to catch a 3D flick in the making and managed to dodge the blackout when she went to her finale dinner at the Royal York Hotel. While she didn’t pay a visit at our house, it got me thinking about what I’d do if her Majesty really did drop by.
If the Queen of England came over, would it be for afternoon tea? I don’t even have white bread to make crust-less miniature sandwiches with – we’re all whole-wheat believers here. But I do have cucumber and a multi-tiered display case! My dad once used it for sushi at a party, but never mind my family’s antics. They’ve become endearing and almost reassuring in their own way.
Should Elizabeth II pay a visit to my spot in the suburbs, I think we’d be alright in preparing something pleasing to the palate. But I have to admit that we might run short in fine and fancy dishes. We have the standard heirloom Chinese porcelain ware, mummified behind an enormous glass cabinet that is also heirloom-worthy for its age and fragility. Can I offer the Queen some tea in an exquisite .. Chinese soup bowl?
When someone important comes to our house, we typically focus on the contents. Dishes are .. peripheral. And yet presentation is so important, isn’t it? It’s one thing to arrive at a restaurant and see the table set, the curtains drawn just as the sun is on its descent, and find the cutlery lined up: a crescendo to the plate and a diminuendo rounded off by the spoons. But what about hosting someone important?
The difference with hosting, I believe, is that you’re entering someone else’s home. Yes, you may be a very important person, and we’ll take care of you, make no mistake. But it’s also coming into living rooms of a living person. The pictures hanging on the wall tell you about who they love, where they’ve been, something they’ve drawn or collected for years on end. The titles on their bookshelf tell you about the things they’re learning about, the topics that kept their interest, the phases of their lives. And in the kitchen, the fridge says the most.
That Pilates class schedule says that the host is not only trim and fit, but that if it’s a giant turkey being served tonight, you bet she can use those core muscles to close the oven door when her arms are holding up the bird (think swift side-kick to close the door). Photos on the fridge are a lot different than the kind you see up on the wallpaper – they’re more candid, they’re snapshots, they’re one of the four that came out of the photo booth that time you went to the mall with friends.
Would I put all these things away if the Queen came over for dinner? All these living evidences of the kind of people this house houses? Not ma’am. Antics and all, this is who we are. We may not go so far as to serve the Queen tea in a Chinese soup bowl, but she definitely would have received our unique hospitality.