“I love hospitality but really dread actual entertaining. True entertaining highlights my weaknesses and feels very intimidating to me. I’m probably the most non-Martha Stewart person out there, and trying to make my home and table look ‘entertaining ready’ and perfect feels like a huge burden. Feeding my neighbors is different than entertaining. Feeding my neighbors and friends feeds my soul.”
I’m so happy that I get to introduce you to Kristin Pavon. A married mother of two young kids (Zoey, a 5 year old daughter; and Brady, a 3 year old son). Kristin began her career as corporate recruiter for Starbucks in her hometown of Seattle, and is currently a full time stay-at-home mom living in San Diego, CA. In addition to caring for her family, Kristin serves her alma mater (Washington University in St Louis) as the “Executive Chair for the Alumni & Parents Admission Program”, and also as the “Alumni Club Co-Chair for San Diego County”.
And at least 2-3 times a month, this self proclaimed “non-Martha Stewart” woman invites her neighbors, friends and their kids into her home for family-style dinners.
Kristin and her husband Mike are raising their family in the neighborhood of North Park. A diverse, urban community that is just northeast of downtown San Diego. “North Park is a neighborhood where kids still go around knocking on doors to ask if other kids can come outside and play. The dinners I host weren’t planned in the beginning. They started spontaneously as parents on our street came outside to watch their kids play and chat in our front yards. One day it was getting close to dinner time, and none of us wanted the conversation to end. So I invited families to come into my house to eat dinner together. And we’ve continued to do so about once a week.”
These neighborhood dinners typically include 3-4 families. And the menu is most often a buffet of frozen lasagna, veggies, and garlic bread (purchased ready-made from Costco), served with a jug of lemonade, on paper plates. Kristin prepares the food and then many of the parents pitch in to get everyone served. The kids sit around the patio table eating and giggling, while their parents eat and visit standing in the kitchen or sitting on the living room floor. The happy result of having more people gathered to share a meal than there are chairs.
This is hospitality at it’s best. Simple meals enjoyed in a casual, homey setting.
And this picture beautifully illustrates Kristin’s philosophy of hospitality, “It is a blessing to go to someone else’s house and be fed. People don’t care if the food is homemade. Even sharing take-out is a way to love other people. Sharing a meal – regardless of how it is prepared – is just a great way to care for people and relieve some of life’s burdens.”
Before she started inviting neighbors into her home for dinner, Kristin had chatted with the other parents on her street, but she didn’t really know any of them well. Sharing meals has created a not only a sense of community in her neighborhood, but deep, life-giving friendships that create a network of support that now stretches far beyond a weekly meal.
Kristin traces her love of hospitality back to her roots of growing up in Seattle in a large Catholic family that gathered often in each others homes to celebrate holidays and significant life events. “Many members of my family didn’t have large houses. But we always got together, sharing a potluck meal, bumping elbows at a crowded table, laughing and talking, while the kids ran around.”
And then as a young single adult living and working in downtown Seattle, Kristin started the “Tuesday Night Dinner Club, also known as TNDC”. She and several friends would gather once a week in their studio apartments to learn how to cook together. Hosting duties rotated each time they met. It was the responsibility of the weekly host to set the menu, prepare the main dish, and assign side dishes to other people in the group. And Every Tuesday after work, they would arrive at the host’s tiny urban apartment to share their dishes and the love of family.
These treasured memories are the basis of her understanding that when it comes to hospitality, the size of your home and your mastery or desire for cooking doesn’t really matter. “If I am comfortable, then everyone else is comfortable.” Because Kristin has learned through experience that people don’t need the ideal set up to eat and connect; they simply need an invitation.
If you are considering being more intentional about inviting your friends and neighbors into your home to share a meal, Kristin wants to encourage you to “Just do it!”
“Think the opposite of themed, beautiful, and ready,” she advises, “Throw all of that out the window and just feed people what you have. Invite people into a lived in home. And get over worrying about the mess. Embrace the mess. It a sign that people are being loved.”