Not What it Seems
I awoke this morning thinking of food and wondered why. Was it because I love to cook and because of renovations I have been without a kitchen for the past month (cooking on a single hot plate and an oven)? And then I thought that I cook because I like to eat. But, it turns out, that is not the reason. While in the shower – what better place to think – my mind wandered to memorable meals and I discovered that my waking thoughts were not what they first seemed.
Included in my memorable meals shower reverie are dining with just my wife at her table set with crystal, china, and silver in the first-class section of a British Airways flight to London sharing a bottle of Margaux. Fortunately, she doesn’t drink. And many years earlier with her alone seated by the fireplace in the dining room of a Scottish castle, there being no other guests. Or us in a rented cabin sharing fish that I had just caught in the waters of Tchesinkut Lake. Or on one of our anniversary dinners in Calgary on a minus-40 night where again we were the only patrons until a party of six arrived and the owner-chef-maître d’ (all in one) addressed each of them in their own first language – four as I recall.
My memorable first breakfast in the Painted Hall of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich came to mind. Being the only one in Army uniform and not knowing the Navy habits I committed some faux pas only to be outdone when the Australian – just one – arrived and cleared the room of all but we two.
Memorable too was the first time I had sushi. We were in San Francisco for a meeting and one of the participants invited me to join him at a hole in the wall where he used to dine regularly when he lived in that city. They remembered him, we were treated like kings, and I learned much about sushi. Or the evening in the Bellagio’s Jasmine – one American, one Canadian, one Brit, and one from Hong Kong who took charge of the meal giving instructions to the staff in their native language. She did the same at dinner in London years later at a small French restaurant where we dined again on unrecognizables’.
And, of course, those evenings On Her Majesty’s Service – an excellent use of taxpayer dollars by the way since many bilateral agreements are achieved this way – dining with my Polish and Norwegian counterparts on a rooftop overlooking the Capital in Washington, or my Danish and Finnish counterparts in a beer hall in Koln, or the Sunday evening in Hunstville, Alabama with one Pole, one Brit, one American, one French Canadian, and one ex-Israeli Army chap where we were stymied by the waitress who challenged us to name the state and state capital where none of the letters in one appeared in the other for which, if we could, she would pay for dinner. Or with ten members of a TTCP working group around a table in Sydney, Australia setting the R&D schedule for the next year. Or rations shared with my brothers. Or dining with my friend Pat in Ottawa 35 years ago. Or any of many holiday meals with friends and family for which I have been the chef in their kitchen or in mine.
Or dinner aboard the Princess Mary in Victoria with my uncle Art who had come from England, who bought his way into a job bussing tables aboard that same Princess Mary with hope he could become a waiter in time, who became a telegrapher aboard that same vessel when sparks got appendicitis, who flew out of Newfoundland with Ferry Command during the war, who missed four assigned flights and all four went down. He told me, “never run for a departing airplane” and I never did. Or dinner with a colleague in the Castro district during an evening when he wanted to show me his world and where he rescued me by slapping my ass.
Karen and I just finished breakfast. Six boiled eggs, four slices of toast, two of us, and one revelation.
I seldom remember the food – except in Louisiana – but I always remember the people.
Dine with someone today. You will be nourished by their company.