It’s Thursday, which means I spent a good part of my day getting ready for Thursday Night Dinner, our weekly gathering with friends and whoever else shows up to share the meal. Tonight it was all “regulars,” if you will—friends who come most every week and who help make both our house and our town feel like home.
Most weeks, I start thinking of or looking for menu ideas on Monday or Tuesday. This week, I stood in line at the grocery store after work yesterday because a snow storm was predicted and I knew I needed to get groceries if I was going to be ready to feed our friends. I had a couple of things in mind, but I mostly grabbed items that caught my attention and gave myself room to figure out what to do with them when I got to the house.
Though cooking is always an enjoyable adventure for me, some days things happen more easily than others. There are the days when things just fall into place and then there are those—like tonight—when you have to work hard and keep adapting to make the meal happen. Like Guy Clark sings in “Someday the Song Writes You,”
searching for a melody
to sing my soul to sleep
reaching for some harmony
down inside of me
somedays you know just how it goes
somedays you have no clue
somedays you write the song
somedays the song writes you.
The meal turned out well. We had a wonderful time around the table. Everyone had stories to tell from the week, which led to stories from other parts of our lives, which led to our knowing each other better and the bonds between us being stronger when we got up from the table to go out into the week ahead. All of it was good and the meal was not what I had hoped. I made some mistakes, had to leave what was going to be a key ingredient out of one dish and settle for things to not be exactly right on another. Let me be more specific: I thought I was putting some beautifully roasted parsnips in the oven to stay warm, but the oven was on 400° and I pulled them out to find a sheet pan full of charcoal. To rephrase Clark’s analogy, I felt like I didn’t cook the meal, the meal cooked me—or I can move to a different vantage point and see we had a wonderful meal together tonight, even without the dishes I had imagined, and let that be enough.
Enough: the amount or number needed, desired, or allowed; sufficiency.
Sufficiency: an adequate amount of something, especially of something essential.
When people find out I have worked as a chef, they often ask my favorite dish. The answer I give most often is, “I like to cook whatever will make you stay at the table and talk.” We sat down tonight at seven and got up around ten. All we had to do with the plates was rinse them and put them in the dishwasher; people ate everything. And, as I said, we fed each other well with our stories. Tonight I got to cook my favorite meal, even without the parsnips. I’m going to let that be enough.