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Putting Out the Welcome Plate

When you have out-of-town guests coming, what’s one of the first things you do? If you’re like me, you think about what you’re going to feed them. But do you focus on the food you normally eat, or do you instead use it as an excuse for things you wouldn’t normally have, particularly sweets?

I’ve been thinking about this recently because my office at work has had a run of visitors, which is unusual, although coming to Maine in the summer certainly has its advantages. And I immediately noticed change to the food in the kitchen.

For instance, the candy jar. This has been empty for months, since the last of the Easter candy disappeared, but when our first round of guests came, it filled right back up. Well, temporarily – it also got emptied again very quickly.

Then someone brought in a box of donuts from The Holy Donut (a local specialty made with Maine potatoes). Then another co-worker made blueberry cake, cherry-almond pie, and strawberry-rhubarb pie – all for one day!

I also noticed this in myself, since in a week we’ve got some people arriving from our India office. I know from prior conversations that they don’t have blueberries in India, so I also thought about making blueberry cake to share with them. But seeing all the sweets come through recently got me thinking.

Why did my mind immediately go to the sweet side? For that matter, why did that also happen for the other people in my office?

I think this focus is because when we have visitors, we want to make a good impression, provide something that they’ll enjoy, mark it as an event or celebration. In that case, what’s better than sweets? Most people enjoy sugary treats of some kind or another, and I don’t think my India colleagues are any exception, since they, too, have their own traditional sweets.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t provide other things, too. For instance, this time of year, the Farmers’ Market is coming into full swing. Why not offer them some fresh blueberries, not just ones baked into a cake? What about cherry tomatoes, especially my favorite sungolds? Or how about some fresh cucumbers, crisp and cool and refreshing? If it were me visiting somewhere, I’d certainly want some of those things as well, not just the desserts.

So I think that’s what I’m going to do. Make a cake, but also offer up a few other local delicacies. And hopefully the guests will feel truly welcomed.

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