Like hospitality. On grocery trips my husband sometimes picks up things like crackers, nuts, cookies, "for guests." I love entertaining so I've always considered this a nice gesture from my kind husband, but it took me a while to realize that in African culture, it is more than a nice to-do. It is tradition, respectful (borderline expected) that if someone comes to visit you, you offer food & drink.
For example, my mother-in-law (who I also call mom) lives nearby and comes to visit often. Right after hello, I always ask if she is hungry or thirsty.
Only once did she ask me, "what do you have?" I shuffled through the kitchen: granola bars, yogurt, nuts?
She smiles politely. "Oh no, I'm ok. Thank you."
If that was a test, I failed miserably.
Since that day, when mom comes over, she almost always refuses refreshments or takes only bottled water or tea. I didn't put two and two together until one day we went over my sister-in-law's house around dinner time and she served us a full course meal without really "asking." We were really glad she did because as it turned out we were starving, but who would ask for dinner when you're coming to visit someone else?!
The light sloowly came on. Refusal is polite. Don't ask. And cooked food gets brownie points. Got it.
When my mom came over a few weeks ago I decided to test my theory. As usual, I offered something to drink, and she asked for tea. While the kettle warmed, I assembled a tray to serve her adding a slice of homemade pound cake and some fruit ... because who doesn't like pound cake and fruit is safe.
Mom didn't even stop talking when I placed the tray in front of her. It was the most natural thing in the world. She ate as we chatted and I noticed upon returning the tray to the kichen, that she had finished it all down to the last blackberry.
To self: "SCORE."
So yesterday when mom said she was stopping by to see the baby I immediately wondered what I could serve.
Blueberries. I had three whole cartons of blueberries. And she was coming in the morning which was perfect because I LOVE baking and I had the PERFECT hubby-approved recipe for blueberry muffins, sure to impress.
I planned to make the muffins the night before and have them on-hand in a sort of "oh, I just whipped these up earlier this week," kind of way.
Except things don't always turn out how you plan.
The night before I was absolutely exhausted with the baby and the last thing on my mind was those muffins.
Mom did indeed show up the next morning though. What to do, what to do?! I offered tea and she politely refused. Except I now knew better. She said she could only stay a short time but I decided to make the muffins anyway.
While she visited with the baby, I was carrying on conversation from the kitchen, secretly mixing away and re-reading the recipe over and over because the last thing I needed was to serve mom a gross muffin.
Ironically, her appointment got canceled and she stayed longer than she thought she could. I mentally applauded myself for trusting my gut. When the muffins were finally done, I plucked the prettiest one from the cooling rack (still warm) and served her.
I watched nervously as she took the first bite.
"Are these from scratch?"
I then watched in horror as she scraped off the cinnamon sugar crumb topping. That was the BEST part!!!
"You know I am diabetic so I can't have too much sugar," she explained.
I inwardly sulked. Well it was worth a try.
We talked a few minutes more before this: "Oh, Chris! I think I will have another. This is very good!"
To self: "Thank you, God. Thank you, thank you, thank you."
And I'm pretty sure I get extra brownie points for making them fresh same-day. Or maybe I'm just pushing it 😏