There’s more to good-tasting food than great flavors. There’s more than fresh, quality ingredients or fabulous recipes. I need to tell a couple of stories to explain what that extra bit of magic is that makes food taste good.
Five years ago, on September 25, we were in the last stages of moving from our home of 15 years in California. It was a bittersweet time, filled with tearful good-byes and wonderful help from more friends than we even knew we had. Moving day dawned early and most of the day, there were over 20 different friends helping us load the trucks, scrub our kitchen, pack our breakables. At noon, our wonderful neighbor, Teresa, brought over a huge tray of homemade tacos. Wow! What a gift! I tell you, those were the best tacos I’ve ever eaten in my life.
We worked incredibly hard that day. By dinner time, other friends took our kids home with them for the rest of the evening while we finished up. Moving days always seem to last longer than planned and it was close to 10:00 PM when we finally joined the kids at Eric and Traci’s house. The boys were fed, bathed, and already in bed.
Traci had hamburgers waiting for us. It was nothing fancy, but I have NEVER had a better hamburger in my entire life. We sat in their kitchen in the half-dark and feasted on the finest-tasting food we could imagine. We talked late into the night with dear friends who made it very hard to leave. What a haven their home was for us in our weariness!
Another time….I was pulled from sleep at 5 AM and had to leave a women’s conference early to drive two hours to be with my Grandpa. Grandma had died of a heart attack in the middle of the night. This was the Grandma I had lived with for a year before I got married. Grandpa was devastated and the entire day was all about wrenching grief.
At the end of the day, I needed to figure out where I was going to stay. I could drive home, but that was over two hours away. We didn’t really have the money for a hotel. Grandma and Grandpa’s tiny apartment in the retirement home didn’t lend itself to guests at any time, much less when it was teaming with family and crisis. I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly, I did a mental head-slap and remembered that I was most of the way to Auntie Karen’s house. I was on my way.
Thirty-five minutes later, I was stumbling through Karen’s door into the haven of her quiet home. And Karen, who has known me for years and years, was waiting with hot homemade Chai tea. I have NEVER tasted anything better. Ever. That Chai tea was incredible. Karen fed me a late dinner and got up early to make me breakfast before sending back to Grandpa’s place. For a few brief hours, I was in a safe haven filled with good smells and good tastes.
Laura provided that safe haven with good food for us once not too many years ago. The kids and I were driving across country to her house and spent most of the afternoon dodging tornados, trying to find gas stations open, and generally trying to make it to her house alive. We walked into her fragrant kitchen and sat down to the most incredible Thai pork wraps. They tasted so delicious that I made them 5 days in a row once I arrived at the cottage!
My last story took place less than a year ago. Right before Thanksgiving, we were moving again. This time, we had movers move all our stuff for us…but still, I had two 16-hour days of overseeing the loading process. Dave was already in our new home and it was all up to me! While I raced around packing all the last minute things, labelling boxes, checking off descriptions of dents and dings in our belongings, the boys worked hard too. The movers assured me we’d be done by 5:00 PM the second day. Of course we weren’t.
So, once again, I sent the boys off to the home of the friends we were staying with for the last few days of clean-up and fixing. At about 8:00 PM, I was so tired I could hardly move, but all the stuff was out of the house. I couldn’t leave because all that stuff was all over the lawn and driveway. I was stuck there until the movers had it all loaded.
To my surprise, one of our favorite neighbors, Jean, showed up at my front door with a couple of steaming hot containers, two lawn chairs, and two bottles of iced tea. So we sat in my empty house (that was looking a lot dirtier and in greater disrepair than I had realized) in lawn chairs, eating leftover Shepherd’s pie. I’ve never been a real fan of Shepherd’s Pie, but WOW! That was some of the best food I’ve ever had!
I could tell many, many more stories of Great Food…and they all have something in common. Simply put, Great Food tastes like love. Oh sure, you can get good food from a restaurant, and with the right company, it can be Great Food! I still stand by that magic ingredient of love. It turns just about any food into something really special.
My fondest hope is to create a home that feels like a haven of rest for people who eat here. I’ve made some wonderful meals that weren’t Fabulous because I was stressed or I had managed to make my family stressed (imagine that.) I don’t want that stress.
More than gourmet eating, I want my guests to leave the table feeling rested, refreshed, and loved. Simply loved. Food just happens to be one of the best languages for that.