“Southern Hospitality” is a phrase that is familiar to you whether you are from the south, live in the south, or love visiting the south. The welcoming nature of the southern hostess has for hundreds of years been an elemental part of Southern culture, and I was lucky enough to speak with famed decorator and Virginia native Bunny Williams on the subject. As the designer for the 2015 Southern Living Idea House, Ms. Williams knows how to put together a welcoming space, and she and I talked about what “southern hospitality” actually means, and how to be ready when people decide to drop in unannounced. Hint: it includes a really well stocked bar. For more on my interview with Bunny, you can stop by The Daily South here. This chat with Ms. Williams couldn’t be more timely. For the first time, I have been experiencing, with some frequency, the southern tradition of dropping in. Mr. B and I just moved from Church Street to New Street – a whole six blocks – and new neighbors and friends have been dropping by with bottles of wine, flowers, and food. And let’s be honest, everybody wants a peek at the new digs. With some help from Bunny, I am now completely prepared for all the people who have been dropping by of late. Her tips, which include Virginia peanuts, cheese sticks/straws, and a well stocked bar have all been put into effect here at New Street … so come on by! cocktail napkins//julep cups//cutting board//rattan tray//glassware//fun straws
Below are a few more questions from my conversation with Bunny. To catch the rest of my interview, head on over to The Daily South.
1. When you set up your bar, what alcohol do you always want to include? What alcohol do you never want to run out of?
Stock your bar with bourbon, gin, rum, scotch, vermouth, and vodka. Try to find mini bottles of sodas and tonic.
2. Do you have a drink of choice or favorite cocktail? And what cocktails do you see as distinctly southern?
I’m partial to Jack Daniels on the rocks. Other distinctly southern cocktails are milk punch mint juleps and the perfect glass of sweet tea.
3. You mentioned an easy hors d’oeuvres made with green olives and cheese (sounds delicious). What are some of your other favorite hors d’oeuvres?
Those are a favorite of mine, and so easy to prepare. Other great passed hors d’oeuvres include shrimp cocktail, small biscuits with ham, crackers with a little bit of pepper jelly and cream cheese, cheese straws (made in advance and kept in the refrigerator), and cans of the best Virginia roasted, salted peanuts.
4. As a hostess, do you expect people to bring something when they come over? If so, what do you see as a great hostess gift?
A hostess gift is always a good idea – but don’t overthink it. The best gifts are the most practical, like a box of candles, white linen napkins, cut flowers, or a box of homemade cookies.
5. How should a southern hostess graciously deal with guests or drop-ins who have overstayed their welcome?
A southern hostess is always prepared for drop-ins. When you’re baking lasagna, make two and store the extra in the freezer. And always have a box of Duncan Hines brownie mix that you can quickly prepare. However, be honest with your guests and politely let them know when they should leave.
6. As a southerner who has spent most of her life living in the north, what are the things you miss most about the southern way of life?
I love the vibrancy of New York City, but miss the manners in the south. In the south, everyone seems more polite. Everyone is a bit more personal with each other.
Thank you Bunny!