“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien
I am surprised it’s taken me this long to write a blog post on food! I know “E is for Eating” or “F is for Food” would probably seem more appropriate, but this phrase really expresses what I love about food: D is for Dining Together!
So much of my happy memories of food and eating is with good company. If you’re a foodie like me, you know that food is oh so good however we may have it. But there is just an added level of enjoyment, an extra seasoning if you will, to savour in the food we eat when it is enjoyed with family and friends.
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”
– Cesar Chavez*
Earlier in life, I remember coming to the realization that one of the surest and best ways to get to know someone is by sharing a meal with them. When you meet people, they can put up a face that’s arranged to make a good impression and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially for a first meeting. But I don’t think you can properly know someone until you’ve seen how they would tear into a juicy hamburger or demolish a stack of pancakes, if they would use three fingers or ten when eating chicken wings, the face they make when they get brain-freeze or wasabi-burn, how they would balance three scoops of ice cream on a waffle cone, if they slurp or swirl noodles and spaghetti, what they do with the leftover sauce in a bowl of steamed mussels, if they’ve ever thought about drinking Swiss Chalet sauce or maple syrup (c’mon, we’ve all thought this), if they eat popcorn by the kernel or by the handful, whether they prefer mayo or aioli, if they drink red or white wine …I could honestly go on for ages! And there is no better way to learn all this (and more) than to spend time with someone around the dinner table.
One of the other things I love about food is being able to cook the foods I love for the people I love. I’m the type of cook that watches closely as you eat my food, because I want an honest opinion. And there’s no opinion more honest than an empty plate, or in some cases a full plate (insert sad face here). I love finding a dish somebody enjoys, searching for a recipe, attempting to make it, succeeding the first or second try (or third or fourth…), serving it to them, and eventually tweaking the recipe to make it my own. I have spent years trying to get better each time I make beef and barley soup, chicken parmigiana, potato salad, clam chowder, mushroom risotto, chocolate chip cookies, prime rib roast, shortbread cookies …but I am still yet to make the ever elusive apple pie. (One of these days, my favourite pie will be conquered)
“Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.”
– Nicholas Sparks
I’ve found that food is also the best way to hallmark special moments. A distinct taste may trigger a fun memory, a familiar aroma may help to remember a specific experience or event, a certain ingredient may even serve as a reminder of someone if that ingredient is significant to them. I often close my eyes and have a moment to remember this feeling every time food reminds me of something special. Nothing compares and no words can describe it. Some of my fondest memories, I remember by way of food, and what a most enjoyable way of cataloging life it is! Here are some of my favorites:
First date with my husband, we had a picnic in the park with a bunch of friends, dessert at a coffeehouse (he got cappuccino foam on his nose!), and we had an apple fight (it was small apples).
Hosting a dinner date at home with two newlyweds, and finding out the husbands went to college together. We talked for hours after dinner!
Trying out that new seafood boil restaurant with work buds, and showing everyone how filipinos eat rice with their hands.
The first time I tried shrimp tempura, at a japanese restaurant in the Philippines. I don’t remember the situation, I barely remember the people that were there! To this day, I only remember the glorious taste that is fried battered shellfish.
The ongoing conversation with a friend I work with: “so, what’s for lunch?” which usually starts around 9:00am. We have very similar tastes and can often tell if the other is having a “bad day” depending on what they want for lunch. Hamburger with poutine is one of our weaknesses!
My mother making mashed pumpkin with ground beef or salmon head sour soup. Lesson learned: it may look funny, but it is still good!
We love Taco Nites in the Dinner household, and it was a very proud moment when my son could actually eat and hold a taco on his own, instead of eating a “deconstructed” version which is obviously not as much fun as the real thing.
In an effort to get my husband to try new things, I told him I would give him $50 if he tried congee (chinese rice porridge). I showed him the bill and took him to our local chinese restaurant. He tried one spoonful, and he literally looked so pained, I gave him the fifty and took the bowl of congee for myself.
Enjoying lobster with my sister on a boardwalk patio in Halifax or fish, chips, & clams in a non-descript restaurant outside of the city. That was a fun trip! We had lots of seafood, we learned some of the history of Halifax and Alexander Keith’s beer, we drove to Peggy’s Cove. The whole time, I had to hide the fact that I was two months pregnant because it was too early to tell. I was so sad that I couldn’t drink the beer, though.
I love cooking with my son! Sometimes we make pancakes early on Saturday mornings as a surprise for my husband. Recently we’ve been making soups and cookies. I teach him stuff about food, how raw things cook, what goes good together, how to mix batter or a pot …and I like to think that he looks forward to when it’s his turn to cook food for himself or me.
Camp food (there’s no other way to describe it, if you’ve been to camp you understand) makes me think of early morning lake mist, walking in the rain, stargazing on the grass, canoeing, swedish berries, campfires, and hacky sack. I had a lot of incredible teenage memories at camp, and I love that the simplest of foods (example, Froot Loops) can bring these memories to mind.
The first time I visited my sister in Edmonton, we hung out at a Tim Horton’s well past 10:00pm, and I was so surprised that it was still light out! I remember being enamored by her city and proud of her being on her own.
Finding a random filipino restaurant along the Las Vegas strip with my sisters, or taking my friend Jenn out to a ramen place for the first time on a trip to Vancouver.
My first year of university, I used a generous amount of money earned from my part-time job on coffee in order to stay awake during 8:00am classes. I brought a latte to every class!
While I was in college, I would often meet up and study with one of my friends at a coffeehouse or bubble tea place, and we would spend maybe twenty minutes actually studying and about two and a half hours spent talking.
Meeting up with friends on race day, and going out for brunch after all that hard work running our butts off. Chicken and waffles or eggs benedict taste all that much yummier when you eat it wearing a medal around your neck, a sweaty running jersey on your shoulders, and other patrons staring curiously at your group.
“Nothing – not a conversation, not a handshake or even a hug – establishes friendship so forcefully as eating together.”
– Jonathan Safran Foer
There is so much to be enjoyed in food. Sometimes it is a matter of finding the right dish for your appetite. Other times it is a matter of finding the right meal that warrants the occasion. And still other times it is a matter of finding the right party to accompany the meal. But good food is definitely all the sweeter when shared with good friends.
*all picture-quotes are mine except for this one. Borrowed from article: http://www.gustotv.com/food/foodie-quotes-for-valentines-day/