We recently moved to a new city and we are slowly settling into our new home. We were blessed to have a meal train organized for us by a friend of ours so that we could concentrate on moving and not have to worry about cooking and preparing meals. Alas, the train wasn't going to last forever (Unfortunately! The meals were beyond delicious!). And after a week and a half, we were on our own. The only problem was that we were still pretty much living out of boxes and our kitchen needed to go through the official (and labour-filled) process of transforming from a nonkosher into a kosher entity.
Each night, we made a list of tasks that we wanted to complete around the house. And each time kashering the sink, oven, stove, and countertops were at the top of the list. However, because those items each take quite a bit of time and we were both exhausted by the time we put the kids to sleep, we seemed to gravitate towards other items: hanging up clothes, arranging (and rearranging) furniture, putting the desk back together, organizing the children’s toys, and so the list goes on.
Still, we needed an action plan if we were going to stay nourished, energized, and healthy. Breakfast was easy: cereal in disposable bowls with disposable spoons -- problem solved. Lunches were doable as well, cheese sandwiches, fruit, veggies, and a granola bar -- mission accomplished. Dinner, on the other hand, was more complicated. After all, what do you cook when you have nowhere to cook?
Cooking anything required the use of the stove or oven. We did have our microwave, which we had brought from the other house so we did have at least one working mini-appliance with which to ‘cook’ with. Then there was also the coffee pot; however, you and I both know that man can't live on coffee alone (although sometimes man can’t live without it, but that’s another story). So one night it was mirowaved eggs, the next night it was a can of corn with tuna fish and pita chips on the side, the following night it was a microwaved potato and a bowl of cereal. And the night after that was ‘potluck’ leftovers. One of us had corn with eggs, another had cereal and a piece of a potato, one lucky member got a piece of pita with ketchup and a smidgen of tuna. We weren't exactly living it up meal-wise and our options were slowly running out.
And yet each meal that we had was really enjoyable. Sure there was the odd comment of "I wonder when are we going to have a hot meal for dinner" or "Mama, Tatty, are you going to make the kitchen kosher tonight?" But for the most part, there were smiles all around. We laughed, we talked about our day, we shared some funny occurrences, discussed the weekly Torah parsha, and our daughter proudly displayed her schoolwork and projects.
Fast forward two weeks and the counters have all had boiling water poured on them, the oven thoroughly scrubbed and put through the self clean cycle, the stove set to the hottest temperature and everything in the kitchen has been put away in its rightful place. We've had piping hot delicious meals everyday this week each one tastier than the next. Our dinners were back to being filled with the gourmet and healthy wonderfulness that my wife is known for.
But I started to think about our dinners last week and how fantastic they were, despite their simplicity. No special ingredients or fancy shmancy recipes, no measuring cups or mixing bowls required, but the food still hit the spot. And then I realized that the best and most eloquent meals are not those with impossible to pronounce names or hard-to-find ingredients or those requiring hours of preparation in the kitchen. Rather, the best meals are the ones that you spend with your loved ones huddled around the table soaking in each other's warmth and joy. The most important ingredients in a meal are not the different types of food and spices, but rather the different types of unique people each bringing with them their own flavour of life.
So, the next time you're having cereal for dinner, or having leftovers for the third day in a row, look around the table and see who is sitting across from you. You will quickly realize that no matter what you are eating, it is a meal fit for a king. Because it isn't what is on the table, but who is around it.