Even the simplest fare is made special when served on pretty dishes.
Those words from my mother ran through my mind as I hung up the phone. Some out of state friends were coming to our area and asked if they could stop in for dinner that night.
Left over ground beef gravy and the little bit of rice we still had would not make a meal I wanted to serve guests. Even pretty dishes wouldn't be able to do much to make that seem special.
Saying a quick prayer for inspiration I surveyed the options I had on hand. Digging into the back of my pantry cupboard I was pleased to find about half a cup of raisins that had somehow managed to escape my notice until now. I put them in soak and prepared to make Mom's "Poor Man's Bars" While nothing fancy, I knew they were delicious and would have to do for our dessert.
The flour I had left over after I made those bars was only enough for one loaf of bread, and knowing the amount of people I'd have to serve I knew one loaf was not going to be enough. I went ahead and made the bread dough, but then instead of forming it into a loaf I rolled it out in a long narrow rectangle. I chopped up some garlic I had grown in our garden and sprinkled it over the dough and followed it with some dried parsley. I rolled it up and cut it into thin slices and popped them in the oven. They came out as beautiful golden brown bite sized bread pinwheels.
With that done I went to retrieve the last piece of meat I had been hanging onto for a long time already. By now it was freezer burnt, but I hoped with some love and care and quite a bit of time in the slow cooker the roast would turn into something presentable. I didn't have a lot of option when surveying my shelves filled with canned goods from our garden, but finally decided to try pouring a can of tomato soup over it and hope for the best.
We were out of potatoes, and didn't have enough rice, so I decided to simply serve two kinds of vegetables instead. Sweet corn and green beans would have to work.
By the time the guests arrived I had the table set with my prettiest dishes. And was ready to heat the vegetables. "We brought several five gallon pails of potatoes along," the lady said. "We have so many that we won't get them all eaten by spring, could you use them?"
I was happy to accept them and quickly set about preparing some for dinner.
Somehow as we gathered around the table to eat it looked like a company dinner. No one would have guessed the pretty bread bites were born out of desperation, and every one talked, laughed, and ate. Taking seconds and thirds of those bread bites and even asking for the recipe. The freezer burnt roast was tender and delicious in its tomato soup sauce, and the pretty dishes, well they did exactly what they were supposed to. They gave the meal that touch that made it all seem extra special.
During those lean years we never quit inviting people to our home for meals, though I learned to accept the offers to bring something along when someone asked. I would often say a simple salad will be just fine. It was a treat for us to have a salad and everyone always seemed pleased to bring something that simple.
Somehow saving anything I possibly could from our grocery budget to then be able to buy ingredients to bake something for guests never felt burdensome.
And through it all the pretty dishes worked like a charm to make even simple meals seem special.