It is the end of the day and my hands alternate between tikky-taps on the keyboard and wrapping around a deliciously comforting mug of hot peppermint tea. I am tired and full and newly 43 years old. Today was my birthday.
I spent the day preparing for guests who were going to join us for supper. Over the week I had decided on the menu…sort of a tapas approach…diverse, light-ish, with multiple textures, temperatures, and flavors. To that end, we began with crackers, carrot slices, hummus, and a hot feta/artichoke spread. After that was a warm and citrusy couscous salad with edamame, zucchini, mushrooms, pearled couscous cooked in orange juice and water, and a green onion/juice of a lemon and lime/pinch of salt/two of sugar/olive oil vinaigrette. Then, a crusty multigrain sourdough with a warmly spicy tomato soup. The cake, made by a community member, was angel food, a tradition for me, topped with a blop of whipped cream and diced strawberries.
There were those who wondered why I was making my own birthday dinner, as custom dictates that it is generated by other means. To be honest, it is the first time in my memory that I have been principle cook…but I knew it was what I wanted to do this year. I wanted to make a poem-meal to share.
The time in the kitchen was precious joy…feeling the edamames slip through my wet hands, giving an even thin slice to earthy zucchini, smacking open the treasure chest of a garlic clove with the flat of a knife, watching the emulsion magic of oil and acid uniting, swirling milk into the spice speckled red pool of tomatoes and chicken broth, freely editing tastes and textures throughout the process…all the while deeply content in knowing that this would be shared by others over laughter and conversation.
It would turn out that I was not the only one who had been planning a menu for this day. God too presented ingredients for me to consider in my hours of contemplative composition. The quiet joy of a developing friendship; the tender, understanding, words and love of an amazing friend thousands of miles away and as near as my heart; news received yesterday that needs time to find its place within me about a family member; the six and a half year old daughter of a cousin who was recenly speaking to her grandfather, my uncle, about the little tiny woman who lives in my pocket–a story I told her the last time I saw her–three years ago; the singing telegram another friend left me on my voicemail; cards received from people I love around the country and the world; the fond memories brought about by sipping bottled root beer while I stirred and sampled.
It was a beautiful coming together, those hours…history, present moment, future…acts of creation, acts of love…flow and challenge…the invitation to grow and appreciating the path already journeyed…silence and thanksgiving.
As we ate and shared in the different stanzas of our meal, our stories and the food itself began to come together as tastes sparked the syllables of memory and curiosity. Questions begat questions and bowls, plates, and glasses were refilled.
Thank you, God, for the life you have given me…precious, vulnerable, sometimes piquant, and always extraordinary.