When Meghan asked me to write about food this month, I was a little bit stumped. I'm only eighteen, and honestly, I have not cooked as much as I probably should have--at least not enough to fall in love with the art. Try as I might, I could not for the life of me attach a memory to a specific recipe. I have great food memories, but they are more about the experience than the specific food.
One of my favorite places in the world is my Uncle Mike's house at dinner time. My uncle is a chef and one of the most hospitable people I know. Every meal at his house is an experience.
In January we made a trip up to Pennsylvania to attend my cousin’s funeral. My cousin, Greg, was in the Army, and many of his Army friends came to show their respect. After the funeral, my aunt and uncle invited all of them back to their house for dinner. We already had a good twenty family members returning to their very cozy home.
By the end of the night, we had over forty, all of us laughing and telling stories. My uncle put together a meal in two hours, and it didn’t matter that it was a bit random or that there weren’t enough seats for everybody. It felt like home. It felt like a safe place to hand each other our memories of Greg, to grieve, and to begin the healing process.
My uncle once said that the right atmosphere makes food taste better, and I have found that to be so true. You can eat the best, most well-seasoned food in the world, but if the experience or atmosphere is bad, it won't matter how good the meal was. I know in fifty years I may not remember the specific dishes that my uncle prepared for us, but what I will remember is how he made me feel and the way his food brought us all together. And those experiences have made every meal better.
There are no strangers at my uncle's table. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is a friend seated around a table laden down with the work of my uncle’s hands, experiencing hospitality at its best.