Maple bacon-wrapped chestnuts. Blueberry cheese cake. Bruschetta with goat cheese and balsamic drizzle. Rubarb crisp. Herb-butter baked salmon with lemon, steamed to perfection. Oven-roasted garlic parmesan potatoes. Soft-battered fresh haddock from a tiny town in Scotland with a red wagon outside the window. Double-fudge brownie chocolate cake for a late-night birthday celebration. So many people across the world are writing about food, posting pictures of food, and looking for all the best recipes. I do have to admit that I am a little addicted to clicking on recipe videos that appear on my Facebook page, with titles like Grilled Bacon Wrapped Peaches and “This Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken is Better than Take Out.” I cannot resist. I can smell the crisp bacon. I can taste the sweet peaches and crunch of the cashews. And they make it look so easy. A few bowls of prepared ingredients, mix it together, and voila! Deliciousness. Someday I will find time to make these hundreds of recipes stored on my phone. Not. But I sure love to dream about it.
Not only do I love to dream about it; I also love to watch movies about cooking and food. Usually movies about chefs and some sort of romance or feel-good story with conflicting relationships and family situations. The Hundred-Foot Journey to name one. Chef to name another, with the awesome father-and-son food truck journey. But my all-time favourite foodie movie is Julie and Julia. That heart-wrenching moment when Julie wakes up confused and startled on the couch in the early hours of the morning, only to realize that she slept through her alarm, and her beautiful Beef Bourguignon for the visiting food critic is smoking and burnt to a crisp in its red ceramic pot in the oven. Another surprisingly wonderful moment is when the lobster nearly jumps out of the boiling pot and Julie nearly jumps out of her own skin. Or when she realizes that ‘everything is better with butter’. Or the touching moment when she creates her evening dinner party for her friends (beautiful table, coloured lights blurry in the background, wine, flowers, stories and laughter), to celebrate the one year completion of her food blog and her birthday, and her partner gives her a single string of pearls, just like Julia Child wore.
It is always that moment in the movie, when she gathers with her friends to celebrate around the meal she has created and her 30th birthday, that my heart strings get tugged that much more. It’s not only her desire to understand who she is, to have her words and thoughts read and appreciated, to acknowledge herself as a ‘real writer’, to finally accomplish one great thing of completion, or to make some meaning of her life. It’s the togetherness as they eat. It’s the way they raise their glasses in honour of their friend. In honour of love and life. Food tastes good if you make it taste good. But doesn’t it always taste better when eaten in the company of good friends and family?
There are always opportunities to invite someone for dinner. A stranger becomes a friend when they sit at your table with you. Recipes online, food blogs, Julia Child’s Joy of Cooking, and many other cooking invitations are really an invitation for something bigger and better: eating with friends, eating in community, eating with someone who doesn’t get many chances to enjoy a home cooked dinner with family or friends. A long table with 8 or 10 chairs is meant to be filled at least some of the time. The table longs for it. The chairs long for it. The world longs for it. Food blogs and recipes and food videos might be about the love of food, but they also point to one thing–that we were not meant to eat alone, and that being at the table together is the best way. At the end of Julie and Julia, her friends toast her in the Bon Appetite scene, and she announces that without her friends and Julia Child, she would never have made it through.
So to this I say, have a meal and invite some friends you don’t normally eat with. Have a bite and a conversation you didn’t expect to have. Just last Sunday I was invited to a meal of Fettucine Alfredo. Not only was it the best Fettucine I’ve ever had, but eating with new and old friends really hit the spot. All week since, I have carried with me the warm feeling of home and good company (as well as the memory of amazingly sweet barbecued pineapple!).
So invite someone. See how good the food gets, and how good your heart feels.
But for now, Bon Appetite, and good night.