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... . . Hospitality

Hospitality



Text here can also be seen in context  via  the Chapter 3 link in the side panel or    http://www.gastronomyafharrison.co.uk/page14.php


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Introduction

“To invite a person to your house is to take charge of his happiness as long as he be beneath your roof”55 

 
“In French, the word Hôte is used for both host and guest, and it is as it should be, since there is no differentiation between host and guest, wherever there is true hospitality. The host, of course, provides wine and food, which money can buy, but the guests provide the pleasure of their company, which no money can buy. They bring to the table that which adds sparkle to the wine and flavour to the food, their wit and their news, an articulate appreciation of the good things provided for their delight, all of which makes the difference between a meal that is both enjoyable and memorable, and a dismal waste of money, time and trouble.

The host who confers a favour upon his guest, and the guest who confers an honour upon his host are equally hateful. Neither the one nor the other falls within the meaning of the French name, L’Hôte, a name which indicates perfect equality and understanding between two persons entertaining each other … In hospitality … there should be no bargaining: each giveth the best that he hath to give, without any sense of either inferiority or superiority. 
 
Hospitality … is a gift. No host can hope to be a good host, nor can any guest be a good guest unless he be blessed with this wonderful gift of the spirit of hospitality.”56 


Social control refers to what people do which contributes to social order. Society needs a system through which people feel a responsibility to conform to a generally accepted pattern of behaviour. 
 
The ‘what people do’ factor starts with the person in relation to his interpersonal behaviour. There is a ripple effect to his locality and outward to the concept of public order. Since individuals cannot be relied upon, it is necessary to have agencies such as Police, the Court etc. to ensure that public order is maintained.
 
We shall be exploring various accounts relating to the assertion that Scottish hospitality is something rather special and not experienced elsewhere. We firstly look at hospitality in relation to social control, move on to the formation of a model then consider hospitality in the context of Scotland.  
 
It may seem strange on first reflection that when hospitality is given or received there may be elements of social control which pervade the situation. Even if we take it at the level of ensuring that our children behave themselves when visiting another house it should be apparent that social control is to do with behavioural interaction. This behaviour concerns the context and manner in which hospitality is given, received and reciprocated.
 
Hospitality is connected with social control in as much that dimensions of it affect the lives of those to whom it is dispensed as part of the economic relationship. Some are fortunate enough to be able to purchase hospitality while others were dependent upon it for their survival. There are unwritten sets of rules dictating what can or cannot be done in various circumstances. There are also sets of assumptions which need to be examined. 

It is appropriate to sketch one or two alternative reasons for giving or accepting hospitality. We mentioned that some might purchase it: no reciprocity involved there, of course. The ‘hospitality industry’ has, perhaps subconsciously, promoted the notion that money can buy sincere and genuine hospitality with from one to five-star rating. We will come to term this an aspect of ‘economic hospitality’. Much more historical but with overtones within the present day is a facet of economic hospitality where the feudal lord and later, the landlord extended a somewhat coercive hospitality in return for labour, homage and, at times, defence. We will briefly look at some historical considerations before coming back to this dimension of economic hospitality.
 
A Little History 

The extent of hospitality is one of the hallmarks of the level of culture within the advancement of society and a brief debate of the origins of hospitality can serve as another reminder of the civilizing process. The Latin hospes meant ‘a guest’ and from this word was derived hospitium which was a place where a guest was received. From these words, as most dictionaries will reveal, we have derived hostel, hotel, hospital and hospice. The hospitium in law today is the area in an inn where the guest is served with food, drink and receives accommodation. This stems from monastic use of hospitium where mediaeval pilgrims could fund hospitality or hospitium [Wiki]. 

The development, evolution even, of hospitality would make an interesting study in itself. It is appropriate to briefly suggest a few milestones. Within our primitive ancestry there may have been a little entertaining of outsiders but the success of the settlement depended upon defence from those who sought to gain advantage of possessions, land or people. Population growth and the advancement of technology permitted by improved agricultural techniques accelerated the division of labour. Men who could specialise in leadership and soldiery created the castle and town and as the strong became protected by the weak (the strong merely organised the weak into a cohesive force) the extent of dependency was increased and hierarchies emerged. 
 
 
“In our modern society the State “… intervenes to protect those who still possess supplies from those who do not.” However, “It is not always the State that performs this role: they also arrange their own security, paying other people to fight.”57  Barbarity was slowly curbed and life settled down to await ‘the birth of chivalry’. The remainder of the ‘civilizing process’ has been described by Elias58 as we have seen earlier. 

Hospitality on any scale emerges at the beginning of the Middle Ages. Generalising about the “whole medieval period” Henisch59 remarks that “In the cut-throat realities of everyday life, to nourish was not so much an act of love as a demonstration of power”.   One had “to equal or preferably surpass, the magnificence of allies and enemies” to retain any influence or authority. “Lavish generosity was the hallmark of the important man.” Considering that the smaller social units were scattered over the countryside and were dominated by the feudal lords we can derive the term ‘baronial hospitality’ to describe what occurred at this time. Various means were adopted to indicate status and as salt was a highly significant economic good it is not surprising that it had a role. 

The important guests, then, were afforded the courtesy of being placed above the salt and provided with food which suited their social position. Social control was at work in as much that seniority was judged by the (social) distance of one’s seat from the king, baron or other head of household. Those who ate “humble pie” (made from the umbels or giblets and offal) and who “could not make ends meet” (ruffs worn round the neck prevented the tying of the napkin – the poor had no napkins)60 never met anyone of standing and were kept in their place below the salt. 

While the salt cellar has nothing more than metaphorical social significance today, the seating hierarchy is still pursued with vigour and all eyes are turned towards the top table of a modern banquet. In the home there are similar placement considerations and when hospitality is dispensed, care is taken to demonstrate acceptance of the visitor. In the same way that the fatted calf was set on the spit for visiting nobles in former times, some consideration is today given as to the provision of (socially) suitable food for those who enter our house. “In this country the ritual of dining has come down to us from a time when dinner was the only regular meal of the day. We ‘dress for dinner’ not daily as we used to but on occasion. We sit in order of seniority, men and women alternately. We may touch nothing on the table till it has been offered to us by the host or hostess, or by their servants. On formal occasions we begin with ‘grace’ and end with ‘the loyal toast’”61 

A Little Economics

‘Economic Hospitality’ has been gradually introduced into the debate and it is appropriate to clarify some of the dimensions of it. Already we have seen a brief historical perspective of it where the lord of the manor needed to entertain to maintain his economic, and from that, his social position. The relationship he had with those who were dependent upon him for protection can be viewed in terms of economic hospitality. 
There are those today who provide hospitality for money, as an economic good and we will need to look at factors on that side of the supply/demand equation before considering the consumer’s position. This will remind us of the various social factors which we come back to in discussing ‘reciprocity’. We will firstly continue with the historical considerations. 

When the term ‘Baronial hospitality’ was introduced it related to the entertainment of visitors of some social importance. In order to maintain social position, “lavish generosity” was the criterion of importance. Taken to an extreme we have ‘potlatch’ as was practised by North American Indians where property was destroyed in front of those whom it was hoped to impress.  ...

But ‘baronial hospitality’ of the type described would have been impossible without a good number of supporting dependants at the disposal of the lord of the manor, or the laird/landowner in Scotland. They were required for domestic consumption (use of their labour alongside firewood and the food they served). Veblen distinguished between vicarious and conspicuous consumption (to be discussed): Goody did not consider that such a distinction was necessary. “Until recent events overwhelmed the ancient kingdom, conspicuous consumption took the form of a surfeit of servants who performed a variety of household tasks and each of whom had to be fed from the table of the lord”62 Henisch63 would add that “the conception of understated elegance was not one which came easily to the medieval mind, and a host liked to use expensive ingredients, and be seen to use them, as a compliment to his guest and a proof of his own prosperity. For the purpose of conspicuous consumption spices were a godsend.” 

There was an economic reciprocity where protection, food and accommodation were provided in return for labour and subservience. It was ironic that the key part of the employment requirement was that males took up arms and laid down their lives for their liege. In times of peace they, their wives and older children worked hard to maintain the food surplus after which the economic prosperity of the feudal estate could be improved. 

There were inevitably economic considerations in entertaining important visitors and agreements about the exchange of goods, services and favours were made at the medieval dining table. This is not, however, the key element of ‘baronial hospitality’ which has greater significance in terms of the lives of ordinary people in feudal times when considered in the light of control. 

It may be useful to distinguish between the two interpretations given and ‘Baronial Hospitality Type A’ is the historically longer lasting disbursement of food, accommodation and protection to the ordinary people. ‘Type B’ is the more social version in earlier times but nevertheless important entertaining of visitors who were given a display of wealth and military power with the unstated threat of a full-blooded response to any later attack if relationships became sour. 

‘Hospitality for profit’ seems to be a rather long-winded title for the everyday activity of providing food and lodging. Far easier is ‘commercial hospitality’. The main ideas within ‘commercial hospitality’ concern providing and purchasing hospitality as an economic good. They lean towards social control in as much that there is a mixture of economic and social rules which apply in the situation. If hospitality is normally a cultural activity the introduction of cash into the situation does not put it on to a solely economic footing. Innkeepers of yesteryear and hoteliers of today need to be as polite as any other trader. 

Without going into every variation on the commercial hospitality theme, we can discern the dimensions of scale – the large and the small where the former is termed ‘professional hospitality’ which we will discuss first. The Hotel and Catering Industry is founded upon commercial hospitality64 and the term ‘professional hospitality’ derives from the notion that it is a full time occupation employing a body of knowledge relating to the practice of catering and hotel keeping. This leaves the small scale operation often based upon the family business and we will refer to this as patronial hospitality. 

The point of the distinction made between ‘patronial’ and ‘professional’ hospitality is not only a matter of scale and concerns the distance of the provider from the consumer. In the former there is a necessity for congeniality and personal service while in the latter the provider acts vicariously and the hospitality act is delegated many places down the management line until it reaches the personal service operative. It is a moot point whether the customer, euphemistic-ally called ‘guest’, feels that he has received a personal service or considers that he has gained value for money in the act of hiring his status as a guest. 

As the object of attention has now shifted from provider to consumer and as there are various titles for the latter it would be appropriate to identify ‘consumer hospitality’. This may be said to take two forms and in ‘Type A’ we see the conventional hotel guest, lodger, etc. The customer in the hotel is termed ‘guest’ for probably the same reason that the working class ‘lodger’ is called a ‘paying guest’ in the lower middle class home. All that is being suggested is that the euphemistic reference can mitigate the discomfort felt by the provider of commercial hospitality even if, with the ‘PG’, it is less than a cottage industry. 

There is a situation which allows the hotel guest to be consumer and provider of hospitality at the same time. While consuming hospitality as a guest he can often dispense it to relatives or friends who are staying in the hotel or visiting him there.  The classification which can be designated here is ‘Consumer Hospitality Type B’. This, however, is not intended to be taken as the main dimension of consumer hospitality. The hotel guest or restaurant customer acting as host at his table is a host within the social space surrounding it and conventional rules of hospitality act within it. ‘Reciprocity’ is bound up within these rules and is now considered. 

Much Reciprocity
 
In considering the conventional meaning of hospitality where donor and receiver are within more or less the same social grouping an important characteristic of it is reciprocity. This is not limited to a mere repayment of the loan and he who repays considers the amount quite carefully. “Just as a courtesy has to be returned, so must an invitation. Here we find traces of the traditional basis, the aristocratic potlatch: and we see at work also some of the fundamental motives of human activity: emulation between individuals of the same sex, the basic ‘imperialism’ of men – of origin part social, part animal or psychological no doubt. In the distinctive sphere of our social life we can never remain at rest. We must always return more than we receive; the return is always bigger and more costly.”65


Veblen commented on “the potlatch or the ball” as being costly entertainments adapted in order that the guest is made to serve as a means to an end. “He consumes vicariously for his host at the same time that he is a witness to the consumption of that excess of good things which his host is unable to dispose of single handed.” These conspicuous and vicarious consumptions of valuable goods (and services of uniformed lackeys) serve as “the means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure.”66 Where the ideals portrayed in the potlatch stand out is in the Maussian assertion that reciprocity needs to be manifested in bigger and better hospitable activities. But taken at everyday level, perhaps the most basic assumption is that hospitality is only, after all, an act of friendliness, but let us take that a stage further. In essence a loan is extended for there is the obvious social obligation to return the kindness at some stage in the future as identified by Mauss, with interest. Burgess67, however, sees it as a “one-sided friendly gesture” but this is so only until the donor realises that the opportunity to reciprocate has been ignored. 

A Model of Hospitality 

The purpose of the model presented here is to draw threads together of the previous discussion and to show the main points. We have considered the supply of bed, board and protection in return for labour and the extension of that idea which need not be elaborated in this study is slavery. At the other extreme might be the indiscriminate display of wealth destruction as in potlatch where there is little regard for generosity and, likewise, requires no full debate. The three main strands as discussed are ‘conventional’, ‘commercial’ and earned’ hospitality and are set out in the continuum in Figure 3.1.

 
 
Slavery <<-------------------------------HOSPITALITY--------------------------->> Potlatch
 
                            ^                            ^                               ^
                            ^                            ^                               ^
 
                       Earned                      Commercial            Conventional
                    Hospitality                     Hospitality                Hospitality
 
  
Slightly less arduous than ‘baronial hospitality’ is the situation somewhat later in the civilising process where protection became less significant a factor, the agricultural territory around the castle expanded and farms were started. We will term this ‘tied hospitality’ as the workers did not become free men until much later in the course of history. This term also covers those servants in the rich town-households. The feudal elements of the relationship between the master and his retinue carry over to the present day and are noticeable in the residential accommodation afforded to the modern agricultural worker.   .....
 
There is one dimension which distinguishes all this from conventional hospitality which is reciprocity. There is no social opportunity for those mentioned so far to receive hospitality if provided or to provide hospitality if received if one is purchasing it. The economic dimensions range from the purely financial within ‘earned hospitality’ to the socio-economic factors involved within ‘conventional hospitality’.
 
 ‘Conventional hospitality’ cannot be distinguished from ‘earned hospitality’ or ‘commercial hospitality’ on the grounds that there is no economic relationship between giver and receiver. It is, however, beyond purely financial economics. If A gives B a £20 dinner in A’s own home or in a restaurant, it is more than giving him a £20 cheque for dinner at a restaurant. As has been discussed, the ‘loan’ consideration while virtually ignored in every day life hospitable interaction cannot be omitted from this analysis. The economic loan is less significant than the social loan but the latter is more difficult to qualify. The concept of ‘received hospitality’ is usually tied up with the obligation to return the invitation. One exception that springs to mind may actually create an alternative interpretation of professional hospitality where in the business and professional world, invitations are given and a meal provided never to be reciprocated due to the possible perception of the role of the provider of hospitality. Figure 3.2 sets out the main considerations.
 
 
 
We conclude with the full continuum. An email can be sent to me via the Contact page  http://www.gastronomyafharrison.co.uk/page7.php asking for a printable version of Fig 3.2.  It is available  via a stand-alone link in the side panel.

  



 
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