I like to a cook--a lot. Not the every day, day after day cooking, which becomes so tiresome I sometimes wish we would all be happy with a sandwich for dinner. I like cooking for special occasions.
I like to invite people to my house and feed them. I like having them sit down for a meal and feel comfortable and rest their elbows on the table, if that's what makes them happy. And let's all have another glass of wine. It isn't a selfless act on my part because I get great satisfaction from the whole experience. I also get compliments because, evidently, I cook fairly well.
I don't believe my food is good because of some innate talent or well-honed skill on my part. I think it's because I have an eye for a good recipe. Anybody can create a good meal if they start with the right instructions and a good bottle of wine.
Who was it who said, "I like to cook with wine, and sometimes I add it to the food."
Anyway, the comments I hear often is, "Please don't go to any trouble" or "Oh, you shouldn't have gone to so much trouble."
I think people should go to trouble. If you open up your home to people, you should put some effort into the experience, make them feel like they are guests of honor at an event, let them see they mean something to you. When you come into some one's home and they shove a bowl of stale cheese curls at you because they didn't want to bother spending time in the kitchen for you, well doesn't that make you feel special? And doesn't that want make you come back?
Several years ago, my neighbor invited me over for dinner after my second child was born. My pregnancy had been one miserable experience with weeks in the hospital and more vomiting than...well...you get the idea. My neighbor served a very simple and inexpensive meal which included canned peaches and Dr. Pepper. She went out of her way to serve those specific things because she thought I liked them. It made me feel so loved I couldn't bring myself to tell her that I lived on those two things during the worst months of my pregnancy because for some odd psychological phenomena--they were the only things that would stick around long enough to digest. I can't even stand the smell of them anymore. The point is, my neighbor went to some trouble just for me.
So, invite someone over for dinner. Make their favorite dish. Pour them a glass of their favorite beverage. Give them the best seat at the table. They'll feel loved. And you'll feel a little lighter for having given something away.