Ever since I started working at a restaurant, I have been thinking differently about food. I started paying attention to all of the spices and herbs that we add to dishes at work, and have started adding them here and there to food that we prepare at home. Neither my wife or I are very good in the kitchen and we rarely make anything from scratch (which is a shame, but true nonetheless). But, I’ve learned that its amazing what some creative thinking can do to a pre-made entree that you buy from a store to make it taste 100 times better. For instance, we got some of those soups that they sell in a box on a shelf, you know, like butternut squash soup in a box. The intention is that one would just open and dump, heat it up, and eat it. Not me, not anymore. No, I add peanut butter, cloves, cinnamon, and some cayenne pepper for some kick. That soup goes from being boxed soup to being borderline delicious.
Today, I met my wife for some free lunch at Wendy’s. She told me she was doing some grocery shopping and asked me what she should get for dinner tonight with our friends, Zach and Elise. She informed me that they were bringing chicken and that she had already purchased some hummus and falafel chips and some baklava for dessert. I instantly suggested we should make fatoosh, which is an Arabic salad comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, and old pita bread, with some sort of balsamic dressing, in keeping with the “Mediterranean” theme she had inadvertently planned. I have just recently started appreciating tomatoes, something I owe to working at a restaurant, and I thought this sounded delicious. Since we don’t have a garden, I went to a local grocery store that sells lots of unique foods to find what I would need for the salad. It was on me.
So I went shopping. I bought some Roma tomatoes, a cucumber, some fresh mozzarella, pita chips, a mixed greens salad mix, and some balsamic vinaigrette. Before our friends arrived, I prepared the tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella, and pita chips to mix into the salad. There is something special about the act of preparing food, especially fresh food, for friends. Something spiritual even. With each cut, I felt like I was doing something beautiful for my friends.
Usually, dinner at our place consists of grilled chicken. When we have friends over, we grill chicken. There are usually no sides involved. Just chicken. Maybe green beans. But usually just chicken. So, I am sure that when Jessey, my wife, asked Zach and Elise to bring chicken, they thought they were bringing the meal. So, as I cut the cucumbers, tomatoes, and mozzarella, I felt like I was showing my friends how much I love them. They haven’t been over in ages, and I was actually doing something special for them.
I nailed it. The salad was absolutely everything that I had planned it to be. And the night was even better. We talked about work and kids and career plans and bachelor parties and family and everything was good. I hope that we honored our friends tonight by putting effort into the meal, from start (hummus, veggies, and falafel chips) to finish (baklava). I know that something special happened in me tonight. I saw the meal as something more than just eating. It was an experience to be enjoyed with friends. And it truly was good.