The Hospitality of Cheese

Any person who has been a guest in our home is likely familiar with being greeted with a hearty, “Welcome!” and a platter or cutting board full of sliced summer sausage, neat columns or concentric circles of Carr’s Table Water Crackers, and fresh-off-the-block slices of Kerry Gold Irish Cheddar. I learned the tried and true hospitality trick of providing immediately accessible snacks for guests by growing up as part of a large extended family who held frequent family gatherings.

Hosting guests is one of my all time favorite activities, likely because I grew up with the fond experiences of being a welcomed guest and learning how to be a host from the happy examples set by my immediate and extended family. These examples just always happened to involve appetizers and plentiful beverages.

When we lived in Williamsburg, we had the fortune of hosting guests frequently. We were not usually the main destination or reason to visit New York for most of our out of town guests. No, we were usually just a stopover for a night after a flight into JFK or Laguardia or a birthday dinner, Broadway show, or holiday party, but it always felt nice to be a stop on their list.

Our railroad style apartment on Union Avenue was full of cozy character and hosted countless guests over the years, some frequent visitors, and some one time only stays. When we first saw the apartment in March of 2015, I was sold immediately, standing in what would be our kitchen for the next five years, a warmth in my heart and a tingle on my skin, not yet knowing how many happy memories were waiting to be made within the confines of its red brick walls, and honey hardwood and rust tile floors.

The brick brownstone with six units was estimated built in 1895 and some of the accents would attest to that estimation. Our large, sunlit bedroom had an old, sealed-off brick fireplace growing up the wall like English ivy and our modern stove was nestled in what used to be a brick kitchen hearth. The light wooden cabinets and laminate-topped peninsula counter added practical function and a homely, cottage appearance to the atmosphere of our space and contradicted the metropolis environment of the bustling city that surrounded us.

Our Union Avenue apartment was a place where guests knew they were welcome to a hearty snack, warm meal, cold beer and red wine in the evening, clean sheets and blankets for a comfortable night’s rest on our turquoise couch, and fresh Brooklyn bagels with a mug of hot tea or coffee in the morning.

Writing about it now makes me miss our old home so much.

We pushed up our move by a week this past March when things started shutting down left and right in the city due to the pandemic. If the pandemic had not happened, we’d have been hosting some of my cousins from California that week and taking daily adventures from a meticulously planned itinerary full of truly New York and Brooklyn experiences, things that would give my cousins memories that were unique to our city while also providing Mike and me a chance to give a proper send-off to our regular neighborhood haunts.

But the pandemic did happen.

My cousins made the decision to cancel their trip after their airline offered them vouchers if they chose to cancel and after I let them know it was probably a good idea to cancel as bars, restaurants, theaters, and visiting with our Nana and our cousin’s months old son became either impossible or too risky.

We ended up moving four days after closing on our condo. We did not really get a chance to linger in our goodbyes with our home of five years before driving away in the Uhaul and car, but maybe that is a good thing. It would have made it so hard to allow that emotion to hit me, for my gaze to linger on the nail holes in the walls where our pictures used to hang, on the shiny rectangle on the floor where our warm, multi-colored, striped, shag area rug had been, and to hear the faint echo of laughter, late night chats, Friendsgiving gatherings, and regalings of recent travels from guests just arrived from the airport.

Five months after moving to our new home, the time has finally come to christen this place as a hub of hospitality. Our pictures hang on new walls now and our turquoise couch is still the same with new neighboring furniture to get to know. We no longer have our long, red brick living room wall and brick fireplace and kitchen hearth, but I’m not ever going to complain about our expansive view of the Atlantic that we get to look upon every day. My parents are coming to visit tomorrow and will be our first overnight guests. With much improved scenery, more space to move around, and an actual guest room with four walls and a door, I have high hopes that this place will live up to the cozy memories of gatherings past, conversations shared, trips planned and discussed, and memories made on Union Avenue.

But first, I must buy some cheese.