Nobody goes hungry in my kitchen!

Posted by Sarah Jane on December 12, 2009

“Nobody goes hungry in my kitchen!” Those are the words of my mother-in-law, who practices generosity and hospitality with something akin to religious fervor. Long before he ever considered a culinary degree, my husband understood the importance of making sure everyone had  a place and felt welcomed.

And so it has troubled him that a co-worker, a Pakistani Muslim, was unable to eat at many of the company events because none of the food was halal. For a recent holiday potluck, he decided to remedy this situation by making a dish especially for his friend. And so it was that I came home to find my blond-haired Baptist husband, armed with some internet research and a bit of advice from the manager of the halal market, up to his elbows in lamb jalfarazi.

It was a success. The co-worker was deeply touched that someone had put forth that effort to make sure he would be able to eat, and gave high compliments to my husband’s Pakistani cooking. But the gesture was confusing to many of their office mates, who found my husband’s actions strange and incomprehensible. They couldn’t understand why he would go out of his way to accommodate someone else’s eating requirements like that.

That troubles me. Hospitality is about a fundamental respect for other human beings. It’s not exactly optional.

Neither does it require that we understand or agree with everything that someone else believes, but only that we respect her enough to learn what we can do to make her feel welcome. And it doesn’t require that we get everything right on the first attempt. It isn’t our perfection that makes people feel wanted and welcomed, but the fact that we notice, and care, and try.


4 Responses to “Nobody goes hungry in my kitchen!”

  1. Kate said

    Religious dietary requirements are hardly a new phenomenon to most Americans; most people have at at some point, I think, met a Jew who doesn’t eat pork or shellfish. I have a sneaking suspicion that the same confusion might not have taken place had the coworker in question been an Orthodox Jew, or possibly even a Hindu. I hope that’s not so.

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