“Hoping your day unfolds smoothly and that your dinner tonight is lovely and all you are hoping it will be.” The text message dropped in on Monday morning in the midst of my morning chaos. I stopped to read the words from my friend, then let out a deep sigh.
After agreeing to host a Red Tent Dinner and write about it, I have had mixed emotions. Initially, I was excited. The month I was given to write about held the theme of “can I come?”, which felt like the perfect background for talking about something I am passionate about on multiple levels…inclusion.
Running alongside my passion for inclusion is my love of being different. Knowing that I would not be able to create a traditional atmosphere for a Red Tent Dinner, I began to imagine the possibilities that would work within the parameters of my home and family.
I thought about hosting a weekend brunch, figuring that my husband could sneak away with boys for a couple of hours. As I began to invite friends, I realized that their commitments would not easily allow them to attend a brunch in the middle of the weekend, and I would need to find another time.
Anxiety was now the dominant emotion as I planned and prepared for our evening dinner together, and I wondered how I would come. Although I have hosted dinners for some time, it had been a while since I hosted a dinner in my home. As I processed through my feelings, I began to realize that this was also the first time I was hosting a dinner for my peers and for friends who had never experienced a Red Tent Dinner.
Table: Since my family would need to be home, eating dinner, doing homework, and preparing for bed, I decided to set up our patio instead of our dining room table to create more privacy and intimacy. I used natural kraft wrapping paper to cover our coffee table for a fresh, blank canvas. Mason jars, fresh flowers, vintage books and white china created simple beauty and allowed me to use pieces that I already owned to add warmth and dimension.
Our patio is currently housing a dresser, the top of our large dining room table, couches, and chairs that do not fit within the remainder of our home. Each piece served a unique purpose in creating a cozy, untraditional space for our dinner together.
Theme: As I pondered the theme of “Can I come?”, I began to think of phrases that could be joined to the initial question. Before I knew it, I had a variety to choose from: Can I come too? Can I come with you? Can I come play? Can I come for you? The list went on–walk with you, over, talk to you, be with you, bring something, as I am, later, now, take from you, anyway, back? Phrases were added to cardstock and placed in a bowl, and each woman read through the choices to see which one provoked a story she wanted to share.
Meal: Knowing that I wanted to make a meal that was sensitive to allergens and food sensitivities, I decided to make Danielle Walker’s braised chicken in artichoke-mushroom sauce from her book “Against All Grain” and provided a salad and gluten free bread to compliment the main meal. My friends were coming from work so I provided a simple appetizer of gluten free crackers and cheeses, including a muenster goat cheese that is super yummy and more easily digested while my friends brought wine and a warm wine/cider. For dessert, we enjoyed another recipe from Danielle Walker, the chocolate cream pie with chocolate-cookie crust. (My boys even loved this delicious treat!)
Conversation: Our time together was sweet and although there were only four of us, it was perfect for the setting. We knew each other on a professional level and some more intimately, but we all recognized the longing for the time and space to connect on a deeper level. I was aware as each woman shared her story, the beautiful pieces of her greater story filled the room, bringing understanding and an opportunity to be seen and enjoyed uniquely.
Our time together was lovely and nearly everything I was hoping it would be, minus the fact that I overcooked the chicken and forgot to set out butter…perfectly imperfect.
I’m already looking forward to the next time I get to gather my people together for another Red Tent Dinner because when it comes down to it, creating a space where we can share our stories can happen wherever we desire.
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here. &