Stock has been simmering on the stove all night, the bread machine has just finished baking, and I am listening to my six year old tell me his idea of going to culinary school with his big brother, who starts his studies in Chicago soon. Inhaling this moment around me, I realize how full circle my life has become.
Growing up, my three siblings and I were expected to show up for dinner. It wasn’t just about the food but, more importantly; it was the time for the family to share their day. Our meals were delicious and full of variety. Mom said she didn’t want to be bored cooking. I think she wanted us to get the excitement of food. My grandparent’s home were no different.
My paternal grandparents always had fun big parties with some sort of theme to them, either at their home or our family run restaurant. Gramma Jean was an early riser and always had her meals for the day prepared by the time the neighbors were just getting up. From her I learned how good unusual foods were. Scalloped oysters and imported cheeses come to mind. She always had a touch of sparkle about her, whether it was on her clothing, the food that she prepared, or the look in her eye when any of her grandchildren walked into the room.
My maternal grandfather was a veterinarian and loved to garden, my gramma was a dietitian so her meals were always simple and fresh. Every summer they helped my mother plant a big vegetable garden. At harvest time my grampa carried a saltshaker in his back pocket for when a sun ripened tomato beckoned! I vividly remember chatting with my grandma, Leona, on the patio shucking peas we had just picked. The fresh peas were sweet like candy.
When I left home at eighteen, I had no idea what I was about. I did have a serious case of wanderlust, though. The answers had to be out there somewhere. Eventually I became a hair designer and makeup artist. At 21, I gave birth to beautiful baby boy that I gave up for adoption, leaving me deeply saddened and further from the place of self knowledge. I traveled the world doing international relief work. Physically I packed on the pounds, stuffing all my emotions. I would have great dinner parties, but never took the time to cook a decent meal for myself alone.
At 39 years old, I made the best decision of my life; I had my son, Gabriel. At 40, I was reunited with the son that I gave up. Andrew has blended so completely into our family, it seems at times as if he was never gone.
At 44, I started My Communal Table to journal my journey back to self, one dish at a time. As I am about to turn 45, my oldest son is actually going to live in the same town as Gabriel and me for the first time in any of our lives while he goes to culinary school. Full circle indeed.
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