A trip to Dixie would not be complete without a generous helping of Southern Hospitality. But hospitality is not limited to the south, of course. So what makes our brand unique? A strict adherence to the Golden Rule? Or has all that sweet tea gone to our heads? Contrary to what the critics say, our demeanor towards both strangers and friends is not put-on, but a genuine desire to put the comfort of others ahead of our own. "Hospitality," James P.C. Southall correctly observed while attending the University of Virginia in the 19th century, "...was not an art; it was as natural and abundant as the shade under the great oak trees on the lawn in front of the house."
I grew up in a house where hospitality played a starring role and my parents planned every weekend around the unexpected guests. Since food and hospitality go hand-in-hand, Mother made a big bowl of potato salad every Friday, just in case. Having some food prepared in advance allowed her more time to relax and enjoy the company. Most importantly, she wasn't running around the kitchen trying to throw something together while our friends waited, wondering if they'd come at a bad time. Her ease put everyone else at ease, and lively conversation took center stage.
On Sundays, we were the guests. My grandmother, Ma Jones, always waited for us on the front porch and welcomed us with sweet tea or coke in hand. After hugs, we would sit down to a meal that usually included fried chicken, corn-on-the-cob, turnip greens or collards, green beans with peeled Irish potatoes, boiled sweet potatoes, beets, cornbread, biscuits with Ma's homemade guava jelly, two or three kinds of fruit cobbler or pie for dessert, and plenty of sweet iced tea. Seeing his family eat more than "a gracious plenty" brought my grandfather great satisfaction. Every Sunday evening ended with more hugs. "We weren't rich in those days," my mother remembers, "just rich in love for each other."
Hospitality is second nature now, and I've spent the better part of 40 years in various cooking and entertaining enterprises where I put these skills to work. Perhaps I'm feeling nostalgic for the good old days, a sort of homesickness for the gentler ways of my grandparents' generation. I know most of our lives are different now, but have our attitudes changed? Will hospitality survive the computer age? My desire is to rekindle old-fashioned southern hospitality right here on the internet and keep it alive in the new millennium. I'll be adding more to this section on a monthly basis, so bookmark this page and come back soon. Thanks for visiting North Georgia Hospitality!