Commitment

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I got a tattoo recently. This is a big deal as ordinarily I have a very hard time committing to anything that lasts a lifetime.
I got a map of the world tattooed on my side. It’s to remind me that no matter what I’m going through today there is something bigger going on, there are more people suffering bigger traumas, there are others celebrating bigger events, there are more countries I haven’t seen, more cities I haven’t enjoyed, more flavors and holidays and traditions then I can participate in. It is to remind me that I am just one person out of the billions living on earth today, only one of the billions that have lived before me, and we’re just one planet in a galaxy within a solar system, surrounded by galaxies and solar systems.
It’s a lot for one tattoo to represent and I understand that most people look at it- the world on its side, stretched across my skin, and just get confused or wonder how I pay for my travels. But when I see it, when I think of it, I remember I should not panic. That today will end and tomorrow will begin and new joys and terrors will enter the world and, God willing, I will survive.
This doesn’t have much to do with food. Except to say that if my biggest fear of the day is that my friends won’t like my casserole, that someone will turn down my dinner invitation, that the dessert will be an hour late in being done, or I will burn every dish I’m meant to serve my boyfriends family– all of these are small concerns when you think of the world at large. They occupy my world and thoughts more than the world at large and that is as it will be, but it is comforting to know the world is bigger than my burnt pork roast or my fallen flan.

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Feeding jerks- a continuation

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One of the biggest things to remember when you get super frustrated at friends and you are tired of feeding them and they are being jerks is that your turn will come.

Let’s face it we are all sometimes assholes and we do a really bad job of not being selfish and conceited and self centered. Some days even when you feel like you are doing a rocking job you will find out that you have really made a mess of things. You forget to call someone you know you should, you’re grumpy at work all day and people have to put up with you, you show up at a dinner party with nothing to contribute ( but you have a totally legitimate excuse! ), you drink too much at the party and say stupid things, or you just decide to stay home in your pajamas instead of going to the event you rsvped for and now your friend has three people in her house who are all fighting cause half of everyone didn’t show up, even though they said they would.

That’s a very long sentence to say that grace is important in friendships. Some days you will need lots of it and some days your friends will.
Let’s all work on not being jerks.

Feeding jerks

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You don’t always want to feed people.
I whole heartily support breaks and time off. I support giving yourself the space you need when you can’t be bothered to cook for another person.
I also heartily support looking into the reason you’re tired of cooking for others.
Sometimes it comes simply from over committing or busy times. Sometimes it comes from other places though, disappointment with friends ability to get back to you or lack of interest from the neighbors you invited over, peoples inability to remember to offer to bring anything or their frustration at having to drive ‘all the way’ to your house.
Sometimes people are jerks. Sometimes those people will be your friends.
I encourage you to feed them even when they are jerks. Sometimes even especially when they are jerks. I also encourage honest conversations at the dinner table though and I think there should be room in good relationships for honesty, and if it’s hard to do the work of preparing a meal for that friend, of making an effort to fill them up and build your friendship, I think mentioning that is the right thing to do.
Telling a friend that you’re tired of feeding them isn’t always the right thing but letting them know that it’s hard to feed a vacuum without anything in return can be way better than trying to give more than you have.

Electricity free by Marty Johnson

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Today we’ll be hearing from my mother, Marty Johnson, one of my favorite people. She raised four of us together with my father, teaching us about hospitality and community. Now she shares memories of our neighborhood and close friends.

One winter day back in the early nineties when our four kids were between the ages of three and eleven we were living in Roanoke, VA. We had an ice storm that knocked out the electricity along a lot of the east coast. Of course, when that happens no one can predict how long you’ll be without electricity and you can’t watch it on TV. Thankfully we had a gas stove instead of electric (I do love gas!). I put on a very big pot of pinto beans because I had a great ham hock in the freezer and that seemed like the right kind of comfort meal for that evening. We then called the neighbors a house away and another neighbor 4 houses away (back then land-lines didn’t use electricity). We made a plan to take our big pot of bean soup, which is what it was to become throughout the day and have dinner at the last house. Our friends, the Gurleys took some fixings out of the fridge and got any flashlights and lanterns they had out, as we also had done, so that we could walk in the light, through the snow. Jim had to carry the big pot and Micah was barely big enough to get his feet up out of the snow so I was carrying him. Kristen remembers having snow continually in her boots so Erika was carrying her as best she could. Somehow we all made it over to the Gurleys house, where their son, Stephen, swung our youngest, Micah, up onto his shoulders and it wouldn’t surprise me if Uncle Joel got Kristen on his, he’s a pretty big softy. Anyway, all 10 of us slipped and slid through the icy snow quite a bit further to get to the Saville’s house. They took a picture of all of us “trick or treating” at their house before letting us all toddle in stripping off snow boots, snowsuits, hats, and gloves. The house was lit up with lots of candles and lanterns and warmed with a roaring fire.

Apparently, as soon as we knew we had no electricity we thought that we should spend time together. We felt so fortunate to live all along the same street and we looked for all kinds of excuses to get together. We had a built in community and we took advantage of it. A late night of games carried on after our meal and Stephen carried Micah all the way back to our house because by that time he was fast asleep.

A lot of time has passed and we’ve remained friends. Recently, on a visit back to Virginia, we all got talking about that night, the details escape us but it’s a lingering memory because it was a time of tight knit community. There were many times we gathered together for meals and time together, this one stands out as we were all willing to brave the cold, snow, ice, and wind to get together and share a meal.

The Down Side

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I hate doing dishes.

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I love planning the meal and setting the table, I love cooking the food and feeding people. What I don’t love is the clean up afterward. I don’t love getting halfway through and realizing I have to wash something I’ve already used, or that the dishwasher (when I’m lucky enough to have one for that meal) is already full and needs running before the meal even begins.
I’m a reuser, a rinser, and a lick it and still use it type of cook but no matter how thrifty you are with your dishes- in the end they still need to be washed.
Growing up there was a soaking policy in our house and I’ve adopted it in my own home. No meal is as nice if you are worried about the washing up while you’re enjoying it. So I try to clean up as much during prep as I can and I aim to leave the kitchen as useful as possible when I head to the dining room but I have no problem stacking everything in the sink for the next day when were done with our meal and move to the couches for wine, dessert, and games.
It means that I’ll have to load a dishwasher before work in the morning or I’ll be doing dishes alone when I get home but I prefer that than doing them while my friends remain and we are soaking up each other’s company.
I know that in some circumstances I need to learn to let others help and relax my policy but I also know that you get the bad with the good when you entertain and that’s life.

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I don’t want the bad to scare me away from the good as I’ve let it in the past. A full sink is no fun, but it isn’t the worst.