Tuesday, June 30, 2009
It should come as no surprise that the evening meal has become a ritual in my adult life. Sitting down at the dinner table was a nightly event throughout my childhood in rural Ohio. Even though we were all incredibly busy, my brother's and I with school and sports, my mother with her own business and my father with his nine to five gig and lawn mower, somehow the five of us managed to eat a meal together most evenings of the week. Whether home-cooked pot roast and potatoes or takeout fried chicken, our hands were clasped and our heads bowed with anticipation of digging in to our family meal. Although I think my father had high expectations for the traditional supper 'round the table, it was my mother who pulled the whole thing together. Not only was she the family's private chef and meal planner, but the responsibilities of chauffer, businesswoman, PTA queen, housekeeper, gardener, and tamer of the three beasts that were my brothers and I also fell upon her shoulders. (How did you do it, Mom?)
I suppose my first cooking lessons began around age five when I was able to stand on a chair next to the stove or just climb onto the counter (what a little monkey I was) to observe the magic that was occurring in those steaming pots to which my aproned mother was tending. I begged to use the wooden spoons to stir her sauces and beamed when she allowed me to grasp the handles of the measuring cups as she guided my unsteady hand carefully to the edge of the pot.
Twenty-something years later, food has become a central point to my life. Not just because I, along with the rest of humanity, have to consume it, but because I have made a commitment to allow it the time and importance that it deserves. While neither pot roast nor fried chicken ever find a place on my menus as they had my mother's, I do take pleasure in the selection and preparation of ingredients that make their way into delicious dishes. Some of the nourishment that I receive comes directly from the soil where I sowed tiny seeds early in spring and watched them flourish into healthy vegetables. Some comes from the farmers who set up their tents in my neighborhood every week to vend the fruits of their labors in the field.
Making a meal myself, "fixing something", as my grandmother used to say, is a task of great significance that has risen to a top priority for me over the years. Sitting down to a fresh, wholesome dinner with my partner every night is a privilege that we both feel thankful for. Setting the table and putting the day's worries aside to savor whatever fare may be at hand is something that could make us all a bit happier and healthier.