I read an article in a Smithsonian magazine that inspired me greatly. It’s been almost two years, but it has been truly inspirational; the author discussed her favorite food related experiences. It was fabulously written, inspiring, and caused deeper contemplation over my own favorite food related experiences.
That month’s edition was dedicated to the subject of food and you can view it online here. The article I enjoyed was called 10 Epiphanies. From what I have gathered Smithsonian hasn’t issued any other food issues since that one in June 2013 – if anyone knows otherwise please let me know. This was my very favorite edition of any magazine ever!
I have sat on this post for months (well, over a year, to be honest) and have come back time and time again to this draft – it’s been unchanged for months now. These are my truest, most favorite, experiences with food.
I have thoroughly enjoyed thinking over my own favorite food related experiences – I can’t narrow it down to 10 memorable meals as the author of the article did, but instead am looking at experiences relating to food that are meaningful to me. It’s in no particular order.
1. Pretty Table Settings – I have mentioned this a few times in the past, but setting a pretty table builds a mealtime experience. It creates a wonderful setting for lingering over rich conversations, and goes a long way to distract from humble meal offerings. I have built a collection of mismatched china dishes and serving ware for our every day use, all thanks to our local thrift store, and they contribute a delicate taste of style. Likewise, I have built up a collection of beautiful table cloths from yard sales – a stain or two from someone’s cast off cloth is easily hidden and is soon joined by other stains from my own loved ones. But for a couple dollars I have been able to get beautiful linen and lace and hand embroidered coverings – all because they bore the marks of imperfection.
2. Good Conversation and Community – When we were first married we went to a weekly house church where a meal was served before hand. That act of eating together bonded us together, and although we were only there a short while, we took that example to heart and have used meals as a primary way to connect with and get to know others. Sometimes our meals have borne the mark of creativity – sushi making or fondue dinners – others have been simple hot dogs, the togetherness lingers longer than a good meal.
3. Weekly Traditions. These have ebbed and flowed with our various seasons and budgets. We have had seasons where a bag of Doritos and a movie were enjoyed each Friday night. We have enjoyed eating out every Thursday night. We have had cups of tea and stories every Wednesday night. We have done cinnamon rolls every Saturday morning. We have done homemade pizza every Thursday night.(Never all at the same time!) Each of those were squeezed in and prioritized through various seasons. Right now it is homemade (gluten free!) pancakes every Saturday morning. These moments of memory making as a family around food warm my heart.
4. Things from scratch. I remember the first time I bought a whole chicken and had to get Paul to handle it in its raw condition (or my sister, when she was visiting.) It so totally grossed me out. I am happy to say I have grown past my inability to touch raw chicken and now handle one a week.
I grew up with a bread making mama, so yeast has never scared me, but I have grown in my skills with yeast products. It sounds so cheesy, but it is so gratifying to watch a simple water, sugar and yeast mixture bubble up.
I enjoy making things from scratch and have discovered many incredible recipes that are a joy to create and share with loved ones.
5. Tea Time – A fun, sweet tradition with my boys. They can drink out of fine china with the best of them (with ice cubes and in, ya know … big manly gulps). But this is really one of my favorite things – a big pot of tea, our china tea cups, and some good conversation or stories. Tea time has been an enjoyable activity to bring others into – with a collection of china cups, what is better than sharing them with others? Whether it be older company or a handful of kids – everyone seems to enjoy the lost art of tea time.
6. Buying New Foods at the Grocery Store. Years ago I started buying a new food item each week as a way to become familiar with other foods and to keep things interesting. Some weeks it is as simple as a chocolate bar or carton of ice cream I have never tried before. Sometimes it is individual ingredients such as leeks, steel cut oats, shallots, okra, scallops, rambutan, or artichokes. Sometimes it is a combination of ingredients to make something I have never done before such as a New England Boiled Dinner, Kimchi or Sushi. Once we spent a period of time buying every type of milk offered at a couple local grocers to compare and contrast. The challenge to consistently try something new has been very rewarding and most of the items have ended up on my regular shopping list.
7. Homegrown and farm fresh. We are slowly expanding our skills with a garden. Last summer we harvested peppermint, jalapenos, green and purple basil, stevia and lemons. (Lemons!!) It’s been very fulfilling to go from garden to kitchen and use our homegrown food in recipes.
But regardless of our limited gardening skills we have enjoyed the bounty of others – blueberries, peaches and okra from a local farm. Eggs from a friend’s chicken. Simple things that delight.
8. Midnight snacks. A few times a year we spontaneously wake the boys up for a “midnight snack”. Something simple, often eaten on the kitchen floor. They think it is such fun, and even though it only happens a few times each year it is something they highly anticipate and look forward to. And, of course, it doesn’t have to be midnight to call it a midnight snack.
9. Grocery Shopping – the actual event of buying food has created some wonderful memories and experiences. There is so much to be learned from others, and so many weary and exhausted people wandering the aisles of a store happy for an encouraging smile or word. It has been a slowly acquired skill to be able to converse with strangers in this setting but it has been so very worthwhile to do so and each interaction gives confidence and skills for the next.
10. Food from others. Food and other people are one of my favorite things. As much as I enjoy feeding others in our home, I have been touched deeply from others loving acts with food gifts for us. If I want to be a giver of food, I must also be a receiver.
We moved here when I was 7.5 months pregnant, bed ridden, and not knowing a soul. The church we plugged in to started bringing us meals right away, serving us in such a practical and loving way.
Then there was this time we sat watching an outdoor performance and the boys asked me for water. I had none, and no money to buy any – poor planning on my part. A lady sitting next to me asked if she could buy them bottled water. Her gracious, practical kindness touched me deeply.
In receiving such kindness I have been made aware of how significant the smallest act is – food can act as such a powerful bond between people.