My two oldest children grew up and became connoisseurs of various things: young-man things like beer and movies and music and old-man things like wine and spirits and fine dining. In fact, as they’ve settled into their mid-to-late 20’s, they’ve each in their own way lived out the idea that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing extremely well (whatever it may be–this is not limited to food and drink by any means!)
And since they are both very generous people, when we get together, they tend to lift our lifestyles for awhile. Especially we eat food and drink wine way above our paygrade for a few days. This doesn’t always mean we spend our time in fancy restaurants although there have been some very memorable ones. If we gather here in our small town, someone will bring a bag of cheeses selected knowledgeably and someone will bring some special wine or cocktail makings, for example.
Simple food done honestly and well in the regional style is embraced as heartily as anything, and so they like a good meat-and-three as well as the next West Kentuckian.
(What would you say was the best in this area? When everyone was here over Thanksgiving, we took them to Ann’s Country Kitchen and thought it had gone disappointingly downhill.)
Their enthusiasm for fine dining — or simple honest food — has caused me to look again at how I plan and prepare meals, to see it as an opportunity to savor the moment instead of just a utilitarian march through some food.
As they grew up, I fastened on a rotation of recipes kids will eat that I could throw together easily: spaghetti, chili, cassaroles, taco salad, quesadillas, etc. We also traveled a lot, so we ate out a lot.
So I didn’t develop as a cook. In that particular sphere, I was mostly just trying to keep my head above water.
I am trying to address that deficiency now.
I had a good start with my summer full of home grown tomatoes and basil to inspire me to cook fresh pasta sauces several nights a week. A simple pasta meal like that goes deliciously well with a bottle of red wine, and you can hardly do better than that.
It also has helped to have back to back to back to back successes with Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas dinners over the past few years…just the usual menu, but carried off more confidently by dint of repetition and frankly, with the help of the organizational timeline provided by the “fly lady” website as a model for making one of my own. From those successes, I learned that repetition, good planning, and tried-and-true combinations are my friend, and I would like to develop some other festive meal menus to share with people.
It seems that I’m not alone in this urge to enjoy food more deliberately. I bumped into this NYTimes article this morning.