I have tasted the future…

by Emily McFarlan Miller

…And it is delicious!

Joel and I were part three of a past-present-future-themed progressive dinner party for our fellow River City ESL volunteers this weekend. Which meant we were tasked with creating futuristic desserts and serving them in our very vintage first apartment, furnished almost entirely with pieces we’ve found in thrift stores, alleyways and parents’ basements.

We looked to Adriano Zumbo’s futuristic creations at The Star in Sydney, the amuse-bouches at The Aviary in Chicago and 1960’s sci-fi (about as modern as we were going to get our apartment to look) for inspiration. The desserts of the future, we decided, will be neon-colored, geometrically-shaped and individually-sized.

Here’s the menu we came up with from that:

  1. Joel and I go overboard with food — not so much the decorations. He wrapped the TV and some cardboard “serving platters” in tin foil, and I played muted episodes of “Star Trek: The Original Series” to the soundtrack of this futuristic Spotify playlist I built around Sufjan Stevens’ album “The Age of Adz.” We also filled vases and Mason jars with the weirdest flowers we could find, sitting in water we’d squeezed neon-colored highlighter ink into, which does not actually glow in the dark, as I was led to believe. It still looks really cool.
  2. Soju-soaked watermelon with custard and cilantro filling, inspired by The AviaryThai-style creme caramel desserts (recipe, via About.com).
  3. Creamy lime squares (recipe, via Eat, Live, Run).
  4. Cake eggs, inspired by The Cupcake Project.
  5. This is what I mean by “cake eggs.”
  6. The Future Fashioned. Really, just an Old Fashioned with a chunk of dry ice thrown in for futuristic effect.
  7. The Buzz Aldrin (recipe, via Brooks Bilson).
  8. Not pictured: Fruit tart, adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Molten lava cakes, adapted from “Lunch in Paris,” with some red Pop Rocks thrown on top for popping lava action.

On hospitality…

Joel and I both love offering hospitality. We both love having people over and talking to them and cooking for them and showing them weird movies and making them feel at home in our home. After the past and present parties this weekend, though, I was starting to feel a little insecure. Both were in clean, newly-rehabbed apartment buildings. Our apartment building dates back to the 1880’s and hasn’t been very well maintained. The linoleum is peeling up in the bathroom, and there always seems to be a thin layer of dirt over everything, no matter how often I clean.

But then, our guests arrived. And when one of them settled into the rocking chair in our living room Saturday night, a third-generation hand-me-down from a friend, he said, “It just feels really good in here.”

That’s the point of hospitality. And that’s where it differs from “entertaining.” That’s what I’ve learned so far in the first chapter of “A Life that Says Welcome” by Karen Ehman.

Ehman is in the third and final week of an online hospitality study based on her book. Naturally, I stumbled across this late last week and just am joining now, although it appears, thanks to a hold-up on the book being available in stores, I am not the only one. Ehman has promised “lots of grace.”

Today’s video blog in the online hospitality study from guest Renee Swope reinforced that lesson about hospitality I learned this weekend. Maybe it’s something you need to read today, too:

“God often used that to challenge me to look beyond what I had to offer physically or materially to really just what I had to offer from my heart, and He really stretched me and just showed me it’s not about how big your house is or how much food you serve. It’s about making a welcome place, a warm place where people feel comfortable.”

Click photos to embiggen.