Dinner Dates

laurens thirtieth at salt

Reading “The Hobbit” for the first time at eight or ten years old, I remember being amazed at the detail with which the author described the food and drink that appeared when the dwarves arrive uninvited into Bilbo’s hobbit hole. Many of the foodstuffs I’d never heard of before and it was almost too overwhelming to even try to imagine the scene. So much chaos and movement and talking and eating and drinking happening in one small (if clean and comfortable) hobbit home seemed playfully excessive. It was with much nostalgia that, decades later, I watched the scene unfold on the silver screen last year. I was not disappointed in their attention to detail.

Maybe it’s because I grew up on these kinds of stories, so many of which elaborate lengthily on meals. Maybe it’s because I’d never eaten at a real family table (other than during holidays) until I was invited to dinner with a friend’s family my sophomore year in high school. Maybe it’s because to this day I hate to eat alone. Regardless of the reasons, or mix thereof, very few things make me happier than sitting around a table with loved ones for a meal.

Over the years I’ve played with all kinds of approaches to food. Paleo, vegetarian, vegan (for like seven minutes), Weight Watchers. The worst was a program that supplied all your food in boxes full of chemical preservatives so you wouldn’t have to think about your meals. Each adventure led me to learn new ways of preparing meals, introduced me to new vegetables and spices, and taught me a little more about how to provide a decent meal for company.

I love everything about having people over for dinner. Well, everything except the clean-up. I love cleaning beforehand, setting the table, lighting candles, choosing the music. Whether it’s one friend or a houseful, it’s like a game to see if I can time all the dishes to be done just at the right time to be served exactly as it’s meant to be. Some of my fondest memories are of cooking dinner with a friend, followed by everything from knife throwing lessons to snuggling on the couch to watch a movie. I also have great memories of being served dinner by groups of friends, by bestie cooking elegant meals in a shanty kitchen at Cornerstone, and midnight dinners running into early morning breakfasts at Steak ‘n’ Shake.

Over the past week my house has been full every night. My roommate had a party. We co-hosted a meal with folks from church as a way to get to know new friends. Due to a tragedy the house was full of people and various fast food meals most of Sunday. I came home to a home-cooked meal my roommate prepared for me and our house guests. And tonight a group of us sat at one of my favorite local haunts, an English pub, sharing nachos and beers and ridiculously good cake.

Tonight I am exhausted. Stuffed to the gills. A little frazzled from all the people time. But so, so grateful for a house full of friends and all the shared meals this past week. Lord, help me remain forever thankful for food to eat and friend with whom to share it (and let there always be plenty of help cleaning the kitchen).

And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyards for the winepress, say in your heart, ‘I too am a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress, and like new wine I shall be kept in earthen vessels.’ And in the winter, when you draw the wine, let there be a song in your heart for each cup; and let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.

~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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