Pureed parsnips whipped into red-skin mashed potatoes. I dipped my finger and swiped a sampling of the parsnip puree. Gorgeous. I never knew parsnips like this – definitely a sophisticated version – a bit like parsnip meets destiny. When we gather at the table, I drizzle them just a little with the red wine, rosemary butter sauce intended primarily for the lamb. My son gives me an approving nod as my eyes meet his across the table – yes, yes, use it – enjoy it however you wish.
Earlier that evening, I accompanied him out the back door to the garden where he pulled plump carrots and snipped pungent rosemary. My chatter followed him around the raised beds, into the house and continued in the kitchen as he washed, sliced, and minced.
Drunken by the wine and the harvest season smells, I tell him, “Your grandmother Elsie would have loved Michelle. She would have said ‘Anneli,’ in that demanding yet Vatican secretive voice, ‘that Michelle, she’s something.” I thump my open hand against Ben’s chest to emphasize my mother’s words had she been there. He breaks into laughter recognizing her characteristics and agrees that yes, she would have approved of his new love.
Crisp vegetables snapping, lamb rubbed with seasoning, pots bubbling on the stove, several conversation streams at once – it is all in stark contrast to my simple, rather pathetic, twice reheated, overcooked store bought lasagna I ate the evening before as I poured through research on the computer.
Tonight, I let the wine fire me up. I study the bookshelf and rant on about anything I feel slightly deserving of a little passion. I search a dream book for the meaning of flying; when it’s enjoyable and over the ocean or a field it means total freedom – it does not surprise me that I regularly have flying dreams.
I love food about as much as I love writing. As I watch Michelle grill the lamb, she offers me a remarkable story on the topic of writing. She tells me she loves to write letters. (You know the kind, handwritten on paper, folded and sealed in an envelope) (and mailed – the part I usually forget to do).
I listen as she describes the experience of receiving a letter from her since departed father. “The handwriting,’ she explains ‘was so similar to my brothers for a moment I thought it was his writing. Even the words they misspelled were the same.” I am transfixed listening to her. “It’s genetic like sharing the same eyes or smile,” I ponder, caught in the idea. “How many people,’ Michelle continues ‘know their parents handwriting? You should have your students write letters,” she concludes. I look out at the shimmering water, the reflection of the moon and stars dancing on the surface. “I will,’ I promise.
This is the way food was meant to be – savored, enjoyed through the process of gathering, preparation and finally as we sit together around a richly coloured table setting, looking straight out at one another – a moment of wholeness, a moment of truth, trust, endearment.
Food and writing are about connection, with ourselves and others. Pulling a carrot from the soil, delighting in its size, recalling the weeks of nurturing it in the garden. It becomes a way of being with the world and it pulls us away from societal madness. We feel connected. It plants us solidly where we need to be. Right here, right now. This is what connects us not only as family and friends, but as humanity.
Writing does the same. Sit down. Pick up a sheet of paper, choose a person and write them a handwritten letter. Hold them in love. Be earnest – your letter could become a memory or a keepsake for years or generations to come. That’s how impactful the simple things are in life.