January Editor’s Note: Let’s Take it Back to Basics
When I was about five years old or so, my grandmother and my aunt took me to a restaurant for lunch. They ordered me a grilled cheese and fries off of the kids’ menu, and I was happy to be eating out. Back then, eating in a restaurant was a huge deal. I remember eating the grilled cheese sandwich and loving it so much, I wanted another one. Of course my grandmother wasn’t going for that.
“If you are still hungry, I will cook you a grilled cheese sandwich when we get home,” she said.
Ever the critic, I asked her: “Will it taste like the one I just ate?”
She nodded and smiled. “Yes. It’ll be just like it.”
Happy with this answer, we left the restaurant. When we got home, I reminded my grandmother of her “promise” she made to me.
I watched as she fired up the cast iron skillet and added butter to it. I was so ready to devour the sandwich that I was sitting on the edge of my seat. When she put the plate in front of me, I was taken aback. It didn’t look like the sandwich from the restaurant. It was fried deep, with a tinge of burnt edges. The cheese looked greasy and waxy, nothing like the grilled cheese I had earlier.
Grandma saw me frown and said. “It looks a little different, but it tastes just as good. Try it.”
I bit into the sandwich and instantly knew that this wasn’t the grilled cheese from before. I was uber disappointed.
My family and I talk about this episode at least once a year, as I darn near cried because the sandwich didn’t live up to my five year old expectations. My grandmother didn’t have the money to buy me another sandwich, so she tried to placate me with her rendition.
I bring this story up because as kids, our experiences with food, no matter how little, were everything. It was a time that we began to develop our preferences as we were served whatever our families could afford at that time. A simple trip to IHOP was a big event, and you delighted at being able to eat somewhere other than your kitchen table.
It was such a simple time.
Now as adults, our tastes and experiences have grown. We’ve tried so many foods, so it’s harder to saturate ourselves in the moment. Picking out a restaurant to dine in becomes a heavy chore because there’s Yelp, Open Table, and Google Images and reviews that you consult before visiting a new spot.
The fun has been taken out of the whole adventure.
Starting this month, I want to take it back to basics. To a simpler time where food becomes memories. Where we create dishes from the heart, not from a recipe online, and we select our Saturday date night eating place from instinct, not Instagram.
Back to basics means savoring your food, not just tasting it, and sharing your plates with your companion. It means being in the present and appreciating the meal you are eating without interrupting it with social media updates and text messages to friends. It means looking the person in the eye you are dining with and sharing an unspoken bond over wine, food, and song.
This year, let’s pledge to taking a delight in the food we eat. Let’s get in center with our five year old selves who relished in the taste of that awesome grilled cheese sandwich, so much so, that nothing else can compare to it, not even your grandmother’s cooking.
Let the theme of your January and beyond be back to basics.
Live a Life Well Eaten.