It was a real thrill for me to learn how successful the Year 12 and 13 Te Awamutu College food tech and hospo students had been in the regional competitions.
As a relief teacher there, I have seen at first-hand how seriously they take the preparation for competitions. They develop their recipes and trial them over and over to perfect their techniques. Then they find the courage to pit themselves against the best from other schools.
Of course, food tech is not only about recipes, techniques and producing tasty food. At its heart, it is about sharing what you have with friends or strangers, however little that might be. Hospitality is an integral part of many cultures and countries. In the myths of Ancient Greece, we read about Baucis and Philemon, elderly and very poor farmers. Unwittingly, they entertained Zeus one night and were rewarded for their generosity.
Hospitality is deeply rooted in Christianity and there are many examples of it in both Old and New Testaments. It is more than mere courtesy. It is a sacred duty, a way of showing thanks for all that God has given us. In Genesis 18, we find Abraham warmly welcoming three strangers. He invites them to refresh themselves as he washes their feet. He kills a young calf for a meal and asks his wife, Sarah, to bake fresh bread. The three men are, in fact, messengers from God who foretell the good news that Abraham and Sarah will have a son, despite their advanced years. In John, Chapter 4, we read one of the most touching stories of Jesus’s life. In a village in Samaria, he sits down by a well in the hot midday sun. A woman comes by to fetch water. Jesus asks her for a cup of water which she readily supplies. There follows a wonderful exchange where Jesus and the woman talk about the meaning of life and the living water of God’s spirit, the source of all life.
Genuine hospitality is possible no matter how much or how little we have. Opening our home doesn’t need to involve an elaborate dinner – a cup of tea and a listening ear are often more able to make someone feel welcome and valued. However, hospitality may involve sacrifice, putting ourselves out to give up time, resources or comfort to care for others. That is why God calls us to take care of all that he has blessed us with. The ultimate benefit of genuine hospitality is that it builds community. When someone feels isolated or lonely, we can play a part in building the supportive relationship where they will feel included.
In today’s fast-paced world, people often prioritise personal space and social media over face-to-face encounters. Nevertheless, the practice of hospitality is a timeless virtue. In Aging Gracefully, David Snowden quotes Mother Georgia of Notre-Dame Convent: “Healthy nutrition requires warm conversation as well as hot meals”.
Whether or not the students from the college make a career in the food or hospitality sectors, they will always be able to offer good coffee and delicious food to those in need.