“Every real thing is a joy, if only you have eyes and ears to relish it, a nose and tongue to taste it.” ―
Any meal crafted with love and enjoyed around a table of kindhearted, thoughtful people is a good meal in my book. When it comes to eating, the people make the experience. The quality of the food can only enhance. I don’t care how fancy or ornate or delicious. A great meal has everything to do with honest-to-goodness humans sharing an experience together.
Long ago, in what feels like a lifetime ago, I lived in a big four-bedroom house off Antelope in California. The house had its charms, and I look back on it with fondness—the giant organic garden in the backyard where you could pick anything and eat it, the weird fermenting krauts and kombucha on the back bar cart we built ourselves, the perfectly-lit common space inside where we hosted dinner parties and brunches and themed gatherings, and the garage lounge with twinkle lights for late-night drinks, smokes, and the occasional “Hey, Jude” singalong.
That house was home to so many meals crafted in love and enjoyed over great conversation, laughter, great music, and more. We made a point of it. And we made a point of cooking together. Those meals, every single one of them—they were all my favorite meal.
My mother, the most incredible chef I know, slays holiday parties and family gatherings like no other. She will plan for days, and she’ll make everything from scratch. People travel from far and wide to eat the food she makes, and my family, all gathered around one big table is my favorite meal. Even when the conversation is heated. Even when we’re discussing politics. Or religion. We sharpen one another in ways most people might find strange or even combative. But it’s home to me, and it’s nourishing in the way a great meal ought to be.
When I’m sitting around a table of strangers and potential customers, enjoying wine, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and perfectly cooked filet while listening to stories, challenges, hopes, and goals, it’s my favorite meal. The collaboration of minds and missions and world-changing ideas mixed with the best food on the eastside leaves me satisfied and optimistic for the future, knowing so many good people are dedicated to building incredible communities around the country.
When I find myself at a jazz restaurant in Boston with three friends sharing fried cheese, ribs, and oysters while sipping craft cocktails and listening to the kind of music you can feel inside your soul. Or when I’m huddled in the basement in Virginia with my best friend eating a pile of junk food we bought from Trader Joe’s and drinking champagne on a particularly weird New Year’s Eve. Or when I’m with my college roommates making dinner with the whole pineapple we grabbed from the cafeteria. Or when I’m eating nachos and drinking negronis with my speed round happy hour crew. Or when my favorite non-Barthian Barthian friend makes me try the weird eight treasures shaved ice at Din Tai Fung that I now force upon everyone I know. All of it is the best.
I could go on and on. And I could never pick only one. They’re all my favorite meal. And I haven’t even talked about Frank Fat’s yet. Or the Lord’s Supper. Or Canon’s asparagus, which oddly, I put after the Lord’s Supper. Who picked this topic anyway?