Wednesday nights are usually a work night for me at The Inn. I like the place, I like the people I work with, but between the cooking gig and my church gig, I’m out of the house six nights a week, which means my wife, Ginger and I, don’t get to eat supper together very often.
Last night we did. The chef called to say he didn’t need me to work and all of a sudden Ginger and I had a dinner date.
Though I do love food, meals are what matters most. It’s not about the tastes as much as it is the experience: the chance to stop and share a meal with someone you love – and, of course, cooking what they love. I asked what she wanted as she headed out to work.
“Polenta!” she exclaimed.
Ginger had to work fairly late, so as the sun set on an already grey day, I poured myself a glass of wine, put Jackson Browne’s Saturate Before Using in the CD player, and began to work on dinner as he sang:
The papers lie there helplessly in a pile outside the door
I’ve tried and tried, but I just can’t remember what they’re for
The world outside is tugging like a beggar at my sleeve
Ah, that’s much too old a story to believe
Polenta at our house means I make it (adding lemon juice, green chiles, and cheddar cheese), pour it into a 9-inch square Pyrex pan and let it cool, and then slice it and sauté it. I also pounded out a couple of chicken breasts, marinated them in Dijon mustard, rolled them in Ritz cracker crumbs, and then sautéed them as well. Ginger asked for green beans, but I had different plans for myself. A friend mentioned to me the other day he had been served asparagus with proscuitto and fresh cranberries, so I thought I would see if I could make that happen. I cut the proscuitto into thin strips and cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces. I put the proscuitto in first; when it was starting to crisp I added the asparagus and the cranberries and sautéed all of them until the berries began to pop. It was excellent.
And you know that it’s taken its share of me
Even though you take such good care of me
Now you say “Morocco” and that makes me smile
I haven’t seen Morocco in a long, long while
The dreams are rolling down across the places in my mind
And I’ve just had a taste of something fine
Every meal is a memory, a chance to lean into all that it means to be together and savor what it feels like to belong. When we reduce it to feeding, we miss the stuff that matters, the chance to be truly nurtured. I realized how badly I need the connection as we ate. I miss being at home for dinner.
When I was growing up, my family sat down to dinner together every night. The conversations around the table were informative, though not always deep, but in the years that followed when distance developed between my parents and me, the memory of those meals kept me from walking away. I had a place at that table. So did they.
I don’t belong anywhere in the world more than I belong with Ginger. And I remember that best when we sit down to dinner together.
And you know that I’m looking back carefully
”Cause I know that there’s still something there for me
But you said “Morocco” and you made me smile
And it hasn’t been that easy for a long, long while
And looking back into your eyes I saw them really shine
Giving me a taste of something fine