This article about how the French react to food allergies has spurred a lot of thoughts and conversations about the essence of dining. It touches on the intricacies of being a gracious guest and honoring the significance of dining over eating. Dining implies leisure and luxury. It requires a certain gratitude – for the food itself, the comfort, the hospitality. Our American obsession with customization has cultivated a generation of rude guests: turning down home-cooked dishes due to dietary restrictions, and therefore cutting off our ability to relate and connect. Even the current restaurant trend of shared small plates has interfered with this ability: everyone eating at paces and being overly aware of the tastes of each individual diner. I always feel unable to appreciate a single simple dish, because there are 3 others on the table and 2 more on the way. In these situations, I often leave the table hungry.
I’m passionate about the act of dining at home. Whether I’m cooking for a friend, four friends, a boyfriend or a child, I always sit. I always eat with a real napkin, a heavy fork and a dainty wine glass. I know there’s something to be said for drinking beer out of a plastic cup next to the grill in July, and I relish those moments because they are so out of the norm. But to me, the most satisfying moment of the day is sitting down in front of something I’ve created, and enjoying it slowly.
My trip to California last week provided a lot of wonderful dining experiences – my favorite of which being a picnic at Malibu Wines. Perched among the rolling hills and vines, we chopped up salami, cheese and baguette along side a crock of mustard and the smallest, sweetest strawberries I’ve ever tasted. Heartfelt conversation is inevitable in settings like these. I’ve tried to channel this energy at home, alone. Gifting myself a quiet moment to nourish and be. These delicious recipes reflect this season and mood.