Savoring Meals and Experiences
I enjoy the simple things, supporting a small local restaurant or dinner at home, with easy conversation and a relaxed pace that comes from a confidence that my life is plentiful and there is plenty of time to slow down and appreciate the experiences.
Growing up in Huber Heights, our family used to be what was then called a “Nuclear Family.” Dad worked. Kids went to school. Mom cooked. We all sat down at 5pm and ate dinner. I was a picky eater. And although everyone else liked mom’s cooking, I wasn’t interested in the standard fare of the day. So I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, donuts, pancakes and ham. Had asparagus, other fresh veggies and cultural cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern been as available then as now, I would have enjoyed a much broader palette.
For as little as I cared about eating as a kid, it turns out that meals are my finest and favorite memories:
- A progressive dinner with our church family. I don’t remember a single food item, but I remember the camaraderie and easy-going fun all the families had together. This remains my best New Year’s Eve celebration.
- Breakfasts at granny’s house. The house was filled with cousins, aunts and uncles. Granny started cooking breakfast at 4am, smoked pork chops, fried apples, fried eggs, biscuits and gravy. Everyone happy to be alive and together.
- My first pig roast with my high school best friend’s family and neighbors (drippings on melba toast!)
- Combs and Tayse family pot luck dinners, everyone proud to be more fully part of the meal and event.
- Sunday night dinners with my uncle and cousins, and watching a show called Zoom.
- My Aunt Joyce showing up each year with her 1975 Ford Bronco filled to the roof with such sweet, sweet corn.
- Watching a friend’s family cook Baba Ghanoush from scratch.
And one of the most unique experiences I am likely to ever have: a small hillside restaurant on the outside of Caracas, Venezuela. It took a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get to a former barn, only four tables and an eight-course meal, warm air and cool fog, a cow on the hillside. A slow-food experience.
These days, when I’m not cooking with friends and neighbors at home, I like to try new places while they still have an uncrowded intimacy. I frequent places, like Skillet, that deliberately remain small, charming and comfortable. And places where the idea of a community, treating each other fairly and with respect, is felt and shared between proprietors, servers and patrons.
I think we all hanker to be better connected with others. With so many distractions, making and sharing meals at home is a modest art form worth pursuing more deliberately. I’m pretty darned happy be part of this project. Some meals will be with friends and family, thanking them for being part of my life. Other meals will be about getting better acquainted with neighbors.