Last night we celebrated dos de mayo—a precursor to the Mexican holiday that in this country is marked by the copious consumption of margaritas, beer and tequila. Ya-ya, M., Baby A and I were joined by Cy and cousin J to gobble up Ancho Chile Chicken Soft Tacos and Green Rice (recipes courtesy of Rachael Ray). Besides the good food and drink (yes, we had the before-mentioned libations), it was really wonderful to have a house full of people.
When we lived in Phoenix, Sunday night dinners with another J was standard. Together we would watch either baseball or football and eat. I always cooked. It was the highlight of my week and since moving to LA the tradition hasn’t continued. But it should and it may. We have plans to get together on Friday. I have a sangria recipe I want to try.
Thank you Trader Joe’s clerks for reminding me that I should probably think about shopping for Thanksgiving. Better yet, I should cook a whole turkey and bring it to them—two single men who don’t have anyone cooking for them this year. They’re right (about the shopping). I need to decide exactly what I am going to make. So far, there will be three and a half (me, M, Cy and Baby A).
Last year I was a food television addict. I watched everyone to figure out what I should cook. I decided on a turkey breast rolled with a corn bread/cherry stuffing compliments of Martha Stewart and assorted steamed vegetables and sweet potato casserole (The one with the marshmallows is M.’s favorite. However, I do a recipe that has meringue from an old Cooking Light magazine.) It was a good dinner that was relatively easy. I imagine this year to be the same.
There’s something about cooking dinner that I really enjoy. I’m not sure what it is—planning the menu, looking through the cupboards, figuring out what I can make, chopping vegetables, or using all of my senses. Whatever it may be, one of the reasons is it signifies the day is ending.
When I was working full-time, cooking dinner was the way I marked that it was time to stop. This can be a difficult thing when your place of work is your home, but for some reason preparing a meal helped create that boundary. Now, it has lots of holes in it. (In fact, I’m writing this from my laptop in the kitchen.) I’ve taken multi-tasking to a new level—cooking, writing and care taking.
There also was a time that I carefully planned dinner because I saw it as a pre-workout meal for early morning workout sessions. Now, I make what sounds good (thank you Food Network) and eat according to my hunger. I still workout early, but I don’t depend on dinner to fuel it.
Ultimately, if I really had to say why dinner is my favorite meal, it would be because it’s the one I share with family and friends the most—whether it’s Sunday night dinner or meeting friends at The Border Grill or sitting down each evening to enjoy it with my husband. The latter is a ritual I hope to continue as Baby A gets older. When I was a kid, I ate dinner in my room in front of the television. (LOTS of Brussel sprouts got flushed down the toilet.) It was a bit lonely. Instead, I want him to experience dinner as it is intended—a fun, social and tasty close of a day.
I’m a bit of a cooking show junkie; it’s a habit I inherited from my father. Before the Food Network was even conceived, he would sit with his cookbooks in front of the television following along and taking notes from Julia Childs and Graham Kerr. He was an eager student—gaining knowledge to fuel his passion. It wasn’t just that he loved to cook; he loved perfecting dishes. Once in his quest for the ultimate linguine and white clam sauce recipe, he gained 40 pounds.
So in this age of 24/7 food shows and cooking-themed reality television, I can’t help but think that my dad may have made an appearance on any one of the competitions—The Next Food Network Star, Rachel Ray’s So You Think You Can Cook, Ultimate Recipe Showdown, etc. He would have been a good contestant, too.
It wouldn’t have hurt that my dad was a bit of a ham. Which is probably why he loved entertaining. He instilled in me the importance of being a good host, and the role of good food and good conversation for a successful event. He helped form my appreciation of the art and the soul of a meal. This is the gift I treasure the most from him. And each time, I watch Alton Brown, Guy Fieri, or Bobby Flay, I think of my dad. Hopefully I have become half the student in the kitchen as he was.