We were fortunate enough to attend an amazing dinner last Friday night with some good friends. It was a collaborative effort between a local restaurant and a local wine shop; each course on the menu was created to be paired with the delicious wines. The best part was that the winemaker came from Tuscany to attend the dinner and talk about each of the wines. It was fun, and really inspiring to meet someone so passionate about his business.
never been a huge Chianti fan, but I was a fan that night. We ordered a mixed case, if I remember correctly- though I was a bit fuzzy-headed by the time the coffee was served. I can see why they collect the order forms at the end. What a racket!Mike and Liz: Wheeee
! We'll take a case of each!Bank Account:
No! They didn't mean it! ABORT! ABORT!
Seriously, though, enjoying a long dinner with good conversation is one of my favorite things in the world. But my relationship with food goes beyond that.
When we travel, I take pictures of what we eat in restaurants. I'm drawn to movies and books that feature cooking or eating. I'll sit and devour a cookbook like it's a beach novel. The aroma of garlic cooking in olive oil is my favorite smell in the world.
Unless it's fresh basil. I go back and forth.
Some of you may understand this: food is so emotional for me. It’s not just something I use to fill my stomach. It’s an art. It’s a gesture. It’s appreciating everything nature provides, and the ways in which people can enhance it. It’s all tied up in feelings and memories.
I remember when my husband and I were newlyweds, and I was slogging home one night from my exhausting social work job. I had finally reached our apartment and was heartened by thoughts of the dinner Mike was making that night. Lasagna, maybe? Shepherd's pie? And then I walked in and found… something else. I can’t even remember exactly what it was. It was a perfectly acceptable dinner. Pasta and Prego
, or some such. A normal, everyday dinner that millions of people would eat on any given weeknight. So you can understand why Mike was baffled when my eyes filled with tears.
“I appreciate that you made dinner,“ I said. “But I want you to put some thought into it! I want it to mean
“What's it supposed to mean?” he asked, bewildered. “It’s dinner.”
“No, it’s not!
” I burst out, surprising both of us with my vehemence. “When I cook for you, when I cook for anyone, it’s an expression of love! When you just throw it together without thinking about it, it means you don’t care!”
Obviously, I eventually realized that this was my
way of thinking. This is how I
approach cooking for others. If I like you, I'll happily spend an entire day making crostini
and butternut squash-stuffed ravioli and tangy cranberry salad dressing. If I want to send you a sign of my disdain, I will feed you instant mashed potatoes and canned whipped topping.
(but even if I really hated you, I don't think I could do that)
Thankfully, Mike is a pretty forgiving and understanding man. And we're still married. And he makes a mean baked eggplant.
And since food (in my eyes) is a form of communication, food is meant to be shared. This is probably why I hate to eat alone.
To date, I have never, ever eaten in a table service restaurant by myself. This makes me feel mildly ashamed, like I've missed some major milestone of adulthood. But to see someone eating alone fills me with a most ridiculous sadness.
I know that person is probably perfectly content to sit peacefully, reading his book or people-watching. He is probably thrilled to have time and a table to himself. And yet I can’t help imagining myself in his chair, a plate of linguine in front of me, a basket of soft bread to my left, and an overwhelming sense of moving aimlessly through my meal, no one on the other side of the table to anchor the experience.
I like to talk about what I’m eating. I like to share what's on my plate, and taste what's on yours. To exclaim over the peppery bite of the arugula, the perfectly-seared scallop, a surprise of toasted pine nuts. I have been known to moan when I'm really enjoying something. I'm sure that man eating alone is probably goddamned
thrilled to not be my dinner companion. Shut uuuuup,
he'd probably groan. For the love of God, will you just shut up?
Good food doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. One of my most memorable meals from our recent trip to Ireland was in a tiny roadside cafe near Slea
Head. It was just bowls of vegetable soup and brown bread. But I had a head cold, and the hot soup felt wonderful as it slid down my throat. I remember lowering my face into the fragrant steam, breathing deeply. We gazed out the window at the ocean while we ate, and my ceramic bowl was the perfect shade of turquoise blue.
Not everyone gets it. Just as I can't imagine dropping $400 on a double-handled Roseville
vase, or investing months in rebuilding a classic Ford Mustang, others may not understand paying thirteen dollars for a bowl of soup, or visiting three stores to find the perfect Clementine oranges.
A friend once accused me of being a show-off. We'd eaten dinner together in a restaurant, and I'd gotten excited about an appetizer we shared. "Like you thought you had to explain
it to me," she grumbled later. "As if I'd never eaten tuna
I felt awful that she'd seen condescension in my words. But after mulling it over, I decided that she probably didn't know me as well as I'd thought.
As I'm typing this I'm eating a salad of baby spinach, walnuts, dried cranberries, sliced red pepper, and feta cheese. I made the dressing last night, a simple blend of canola oil, mandarin orange juice, and white wine vinegar. I've been looking forward to it all day.
It's delicious. I just had to tell you.
Labels: Food and Wine, Marriage