I hate eating alone. Blame it on unresolved middle school fears or my propensity to gobble down food in seconds flat, I do best when dining in the company of others. I find it easy to take a breath, pick up my gaze, and look across the table at the good people sitting next to me. Although I used to roll my eyes at the exercise, my parents raised my brother and I to share our daily “highs and lows” over wild rice casserole, green chicken enchiladas, or whatever current experiment came out of the family kitchen. Now, I love sharing the highs and lows, the burdens and triumphs, the hopes and fears, the dreams and failures.
Although the table is often a source of strength for me, the kitchen is not. Despite the fact my table and countertop are a mere six feet away from each other, I often feel harried in one and calm in the other. This weekend, I was fortunate to host a dear friend from Minnesota to show her my city and share my home. Because Rachel had a long drive ahead, I assumed I would have time to poke around the kitchen to make a delectable, culinary masterpiece.
When my friend arrived an hour an a half sooner than planned, I realized that immediately relaxing over dinner would not be in the cards. No, what she would see would be me, sweaty and analytical, trying to figure out how to pulse apricots without a working food processor. Per usual, Rachel was gracious and complementary and, as I tried to string some sentences together about how her trip was and what nice weather we’ve been having, I prayed she would just sit at the table, tell me a story, and let Hurricane Kelsey run its course in the kitchen. No such luck. My friends are not usually the ones to sit by the wayside. If there’s a need, they’ll jump in, sleeves up and hands dirty.
Despite my poor ability to make small talk and pour drinks, Rachel gave herself a tour of my kitchen cupboards and drawers, while filling in the gaps for me. My ability to multitask was waining, but I finally surrendered and proclaimed we could get into the depths of conversation around the table later. I had, ever so keenly, chosen two new recipes that evening and, for now, we could both be free to focus on the task at hand, bobbing and weaving our way towards the end result.
And this is why I’ve decided to let people in. To let them cook with me. It’s messy, to be sure, and it’s humbling as all get out. However, every time I do so, the cliches ring true.
The process is often more of a blessing than the product, and our mess can be as beautiful as our finished creation.
As for my epicurean creation, it was pretty tasty. However, I’d bet just about anything that it wouldn’t have been half as good if I went at it alone. By welcoming one or two or three others into our lives, whether it be to our kitchens, porches, or dining rooms, we can create more dynamically. Because someone is better at seasoning meat than I am, someone is better at planting flowers than I am, and someone is better at picking paint colors than I am. It truly takes a village. And so I’ll daily choose to concede, to gladly let people into my messy, sticky, developing kitchen. Who knows what the process will yield?