Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking lots about my upcoming trip to the Old Country, and have come up with quite the list of things to look forward to. Reconnecting with family members and friends I haven’t seen in years is obviously a high priority, but there are more prosaic aspects of going home that bring me almost as much joy – drinking from public fountains, walking everywhere and for hours, and the bakeries – oh god, the bakeries…
More than almost anything, though, I am looking forward to sharing home-cooked meals with people I’m close with. This is a ritual I have not quite managed to replicate in Canada, and which I miss more than I realized. There is something wonderfully intimate about sharing sustenance. And I enjoy being on the giving end of it as much as the receiving. While baked treats for special occasions are wonderful and always appreciated, what I crave even more in my day-to-day existence, is the chance to connect over ordinary lunches and dinners – meals that are lifted from the mundane to the sublime by the people they are shared with.
These reflections were in part sparked by a humorous but poignant interaction with a co-worker a few days ago; I was finishing up the last of some very stale bread, when he asked if I could spare a bit of crust – which I gladly did, and wished that I had this sort of relationship with more people, spilling beyond the confines of weeks-in-advance scheduled dinners. In the famously cold and aloof west coast environment (which I take as much responsibility for propagating as anyone else), this, to me, was a strong hint of closeness.
One of my favourite human-being moments ever was kayaking up to a wild beach with two great friends; we were wet and cold to the bone, and decided a fuel stop would give us strength to paddle the rest of the way to our destination. They built a fire while I boiled instant noodles, which we took turns eating from a common pot, reveling in the hot, salty, body and soul-warming and morale-boosting deliciousness. It is a known fact that all food tastes roughly three orders of magnitude better when eaten outdoors, and I struggle to think of a meal in any restaurant I have enjoyed so much.
I’ve decided to make more of an active effort to cook for both myself and my friends when I return, and hopefully not too many of them will be weirded out if I show up on their doorsteps with jars of soup and stew and other things which I find comforting in all their lack of sophistication. Speaking of which, if you’re reading this, and are willing to be a test subject in my sometimes-successful culinary experiments, do get in touch.