Sometimes you just want a frozen waffle for breakfast. You want to ignore homemade, all-natural, “clean” bullshit and approach the meal in front of you with unbiased joy. And sometimes that waffle is pretty mediocre. It’s not fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside, it’s not flecked with fresh wheat or tinged with a sourdough tang. It’s weightless and crispy-soft, like a Ritz Cracker, and it wilts immediately upon topping with fruit, maple syrup, and chopped nuts. A cold slab of butter clings mercilessly to it’s tiny square holes, leaving some parts pooling in fat and other parts hard and dry. It tastes, at best, fine.
But when you’re used to tirelessly making everything from scratch, spending hours planning and prepping meals and hunting the isles of Whole Foods for masa harina to make your own tortillas, popping two frozen circles into a toaster and enjoying breakfast a few minutes later is liberating. Food is not always about taste, or the process of cooking, or the detailed pageant of a food’s history. Food can simply be an element to the experience of eating, of enjoying, of relishing as much in the ease of a decent meal as in the outcome of something more laborious.
Sitting at dinner last night with Mom and Dad, we talked politics, music, and how to properly pronounce “exploitative”. We scolded one puppy for biting at Dad’s toes and rewarded the other with her own seat at the table. The food on our plates was fine, even sub-par (creamy, spicy egg salad on burnt rye bread), but the evening was about so much more than that. The food beckoned everyone to the table and incited an enjoyable evening, but was then forgotten like a anonymous, benevolent stranger.
I’m writing this because I, too, need a reminder that dinner creates moments, and those moments should be savored as much as that juicy pork tenderloin. Take a bite, feel gratitude for the meal in front of you, then thank the chef. After that, consider the people you’re enjoying the meal with, what they’re thinking about, what they’re looking forward to, what’s beyond their plate. Whether you’re enjoying a frozen waffle or a Christmas ham, slicked with maple-bourbon glaze, notice the sustenance in front of you, then pay attention to those around you. Food is best served with the people you love.