Saturday, January 9, 2010

"to tell the truth this could be the last time"

the food: Shared Meals
the song: "All My Friends" LCD Soundsytem

Yesterday I did something rare and took a half-day away from the little ones to sleep in, clean up from the Rose Bowl chili party on Thursday, and enjoy the warmth of my own house for a few extra hours. During my quiet morning, I spent a little time brainstorming; in particular, thinking about what food items had stood out in the past week that I could share here. I’ve been keeping things simple: roasted broccoli from the garden with sweet potato, ratatouille and polenta, spaghetti squash. Nothing especially novel or challenging.

Although I don’t have a particular recipe to share, I did realize during my contemplative morning that in the past month almost all the meals we’ve eaten have stood out as exceptional. Why? While some of the food has been new and exciting, most of the specialness comes from who the meals were shared with.

We were able to spend some great time with family and friends this holiday. The husband and I have shared some great, quiet meals since the Christmas hustle, including a simple and special last meal of 2010. We put a lot of thought into our last dinner of the year (spinach and mushroom bruschetta...recipe here), capping it off with perhaps my current favorite beer before officially ringing in the new year with friends and champagne.

For the new year, some holiday houseguests treated us to an amazing dinner at Vespio. Our Vespio meal was as close to culinary perfection as you can get. But what made the meal truly exceptional was the company, the conversation, the bond. One of said houseguests, our good friend Chris, has upgraded to roommate for the time being. Having another person in the house adds that much more to the importance of meals and offers opportunities to collaborate in the kitchen. Every meal these days, no matter how simple or how elaborate seems like something special to be enjoyed slowly and accompanied by good conversation.

It often doesn’t matter what’s being eaten, so much as the people you are eating with. Isn’t that really why we take pictures of food? Why traditions are so often linked to food? Isn’t that why when we make plans to see friends and family, the meeting is usually scheduled around a meal? When we combine good company with the sensory pleasures of food and drink, we create memories on multiple levels. Memories that really stick. These memories can be made in the home, at a nice restaurant, in a bar, at a taco stand...we just have to take the time to notice.

Yesterday, Serious Eats linked to a post on Roger Ebert’s blog about his inability to eat or drink following surgery. It is a beautifully written piece about the power of memory and the subtext of our meals. It speaks right to the importance of the shared meal, and I think is a good reminder for us all to slow down and savor times we spend around the table. After reading his story, it is hard to imagine rushing through a meal ever again. Ebert writes:
“What I miss is the society. Lunch and dinner are the two occasions when we most easily meet with friends and family. They're the first way we experience places far from home. Where we sit to regard the passing parade. How we learn indirectly of other cultures. When we feel good together. Meals are when we get a lot of our talking done -- probably most of our recreational talking. That's what I miss."
Well said. In 2010, I resolve to not take my meals for granted and to notice the power of food to bring us all together.


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