Friday night I went to a dinner party at my friend Alex’s. The two of us met in college where we were both minoring in health promotion. Since our school was small, this meant we had quite a few of the same classes. As we sat next to each other and made small-talk, we found that our conversations would always gravitate towards food. Alex admitted that her tight student budget was made even tighter by her addiction to high-quality gourmet eats. A vegetarian herself, I found it hilarious when Alex told me she works at, of all places, a meat shop! The shop sells cuts of meat and gourmet cheeses, olives and the like. I told her about working at Health in a Hurry, and how much I loved being in the tiny shop, happily preparing food and watching customers get jazzed up about taking the finished product home with them.
To me, there is something about planning, preparing and sharing a meal with others that creates a sense of intimacy like no other. Feeding others fills me with a sense of comfort, with the knowledge that I was able to –in some small way– nurture them and make a difference in their day. Just as runners need to run, and writers need to write, I am constantly struggling with the urge to nourish others. Maybe I’m just a people pleaser, but nothing makes me happier than sitting around a table with people I care about, or a group of interesting people I just met, and eating something delicious, nutritious and home-made.
Growing up, I was constantly seated in a stool in the corner of our tiny galley kitchen as my chef of a mother danced around concocting some fabulous feast. Just like eating, cooking to me is best when done socially. Since moving out on my own, the only time I have found myself lonely is when I am pouring through cookbooks, standing over my stove and sitting at my table eating–alone. In an act of desperation I have even called up a friend in the area to say “no seriously, I’m making dinner, can you just come over and eat it with me.”
So you can imagine my sense of relief when Alex invited me over for dinner on a Friday night, the first time we have ever spent time together outside of school, and I find that not only does she live two miles down the same road as me, but that she too feels a drive to nourish others through food. And I’ll be damned if she didn’t do just that. We had a middle-eastern feast with two kinds of home-made hummus– edamame and jalapeno– baba ganoush, olives soaking in fennel (compliments of the meat market), gyro bread and a huge platter of gourmet cheeses that I had to ignore all night like an ex–boyfriend who shows up at a party with a Bar Refaeli look-alike. (Meaning I went home and cried about it.)
Now with a new foodie-friend just a few miles down the road I hope to end my lonely nights talking to my pot of curried lentils simmering on the stove. When you find something that makes you feel like you have a purpose–whether it’s spending time outdoors, crunching numbers, working with your hands or chasing a friend around the kitchen with a soup spoon full of bulgur wheat pilaf– go for it. Don’t ask questions, just jump right in. Some people spend their whole lives searching for a meaningful existence, so feel blessed to have found a passion, regardless of what it is.