Monday, June 24, 2013

Bread And Wine, A Review, Of Sorts

So this weekend was a cooking weekend, meaning I cooked every night. And not just a little cooking. A lot of it. Usually I look forward to at least one night off from cooking on weekends. Ideally I do a big meal on Friday night, complete with wine and music while I cook. Being in the kitchen with some 80's music blasting while I sip wine and move around from stove to island to oven and back again is, oddly enough, one of my happy places. But after Friday night, I like to order pizza on Saturday night and have a light, easy dinner on Sunday night.

But that was not to be this weekend. My best friend from high school's father died on Friday. When I got the news I texted her and said "What can I do?" Usually when you ask this question the person says, "Oh nothing." And I find that very frustrating because I actually want to do something-- something they need. And it would be helpful if they would tell me exactly what that could be. And yet, people seem hesitant to say so. Maybe we don't want to admit we need help? But one of the things I love best about my friend Karen is that she is straightforward. She responded: "Bring a dish tonight."

Yes! That I can do.

We were already committed to attend a little get-together and I was bringing a couple of dishes to that. But here's the cool part: that morning I had a pork tenderloin that needed to be cooked. I put it in the crockpot and dumped a bottle of good barbecue sauce over top of it, reasoning that we'd just heat it for an easy dinner Saturday night. So when Karen said, "Bring a dish," I had the dish already cooking. Serendipity! My mind started spinning over how I could throw together an easy meal around the barbecue. Buns, chips and some sliced watermelon would make for a simple meal. And I had some blueberries that would make a nice crisp. I googled "Blueberry Crisp" and found this recipe, got started on it, and texted Curt to make a stop at the store to pick up the additional stuff. Without a lot of fuss, we had a complete meal to take to them.

But that also meant my easy dinner for Saturday night was gone. And I had a friend coming over for dinner. So I pulled out the other pork tenderloin from the freezer so we could have it. I made a pork tenderloin with gravy, mashed potatoes, and green beans. And that blueberry crisp I made for Karen's family looked so good, I adapted it and made a peach-blueberry crisp for our dessert. And because not everyone in my clan are fruit fans, I threw together this easy brownie pie. It was a complete and total hit-- fudgy and rich and perfect with a big scoop of Breyer's Vanilla on top. After dinner my friend Karen came over to have a glass of wine and relax for a bit. She lives in Atlanta now so we don't get to see each other much so I was glad to see her longer than it took to drop that meal. Just wish it was under better circumstances.

Sunday night we had our swim team banquet and because we bring so many people to it, I feel compelled to provide something in every category-- main, side, and dessert. I made green beans and chocolate pudding pies in an Oreo crust. I make the same thing every year and my kids have come to expect it. And also? Those pudding pies are gone in 2.5 seconds every year. This year I did have Curt get fried chicken for the main dish contribution.

But none of that explains the book image at the top of this post. Well, I'm finally getting to that. You see, I did a lot of cooking this weekend. More than the normal amount. And it involved a lot of being on my feet on the hard tile floor in my kitchen, cooking and measuring and chopping and stirring. And it could've felt like a thankless and overlooked effort. But instead it all felt just short of miraculous.

As I took food to three gatherings with friends and families. As I prepared a meal that included my children and friends around our table. I thought about this book I've been reading-- this book that is a celebration of food and what it adds to our lives. Because of this book I had a renewed appreciation for what I was doing. Not because someone else told me it was good. Or because someone else noticed my efforts. Or because I was in some way validated by cooking up a storm all weekend long. Instead I appreciated it all-- the tastes, the noise, the moments of laughter and tears, the wine, the carbs, the sweets, the smiles. It was all my pleasure from the deepest sense of who I am to these people, and what I have the opportunity to do. I was grateful that this weekend fell during the reading of this book. And I hope that the next time a weekend like this pops up, I will hold this lesson close to my heart, cooking out of joy and not obligation-- something to be celebrated, not complained about.

If you'd like a renewed perspective on food, I can't recommend Bread and Wine highly enough. Not only will it inspire and encourage you, there are great recipes too!
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