The Joy of Food

We love to eat. When asked why I ride my bike so much, I usually respond “so I can eat more,” and I’m not kidding. I’m also a big fan of the preparation of food. There is something creative, and relaxing, about preparing a meal, even for a large group. Perhaps I should have been a chef…

This past week, we had twice had the opportunity to break bread with friends, and prepare the meals together. First, two friends (who are equally enamored with the cooking process) came over to spend one final night together before they moved away. The menu was simple: vegetable enchiladas, rice, fresh salsa. The plan was that we would prepare the filling, and our friends (who are serious bakers) would bring the tortilla dough, and we would assemble the enchiladas together. I’ve not cooked much with other folks (besides Jen and the boy), but working with Katie and Joel was fun, and likely an insight into how a well-oiled kitchen works.

Katie rolled out the buckwheat tortilla dough, Joel cooked the dough on several pans he had going on the stove, and I filled the fresh tortillas with vegetables and cheese, rolled them, and added them to the casserole. Roughly twenty minutes later, I had twelve enchiladas ready for the oven. Twenty more minutes, and we were supping on delicious Mexican food. The most inspiring part of cooking with Joel and Katie (this wasn’t our first time) is their utter disregard for the cleaniness of the kitchen as they cook. As they furious rolled and cooked tortillas, flour was everywhere. Later, when Joel made dessert (fruit empenadas), again, flour and fruit covered the countertops (and the baking stone in the oven). I tend to be a little uptight about making a mess (mostly, I think, since I’ll be cleaning it up later), but it’s clearly more fun to throw caution to wind.

A few days later, we were in Beaver Falls, and I found myself in a friend’s kitchen, making (oddly) vegetable burritos. While the production wasn’t as manic (in fact, it was quite leisurely), it was what Sunday afternoons should be about — cooking and eating and talking with friends. Say what you will about the Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, but this book, The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast, gets it right, outlining the Biblical importance of the shared meal. And it’s not simply the meal that’s important — it’s the process as well.