Whenever a holiday is approaching or a dinner party is planned, you can find me surrounded by open cookbooks on all sides. Pages torn from Food & Wine or Gourmet magazines litter the floor like autumn leaves. I pore over them, researching just the right flavor combinations until a menu begins to crystallize on the notepad before me.
My guests marvel at my “bravery”. “You’ve never made any of this before?” they ask aghast. Most people go with the tried and true- things they’ve practiced time and time again; things they know people like; things that are safe. That just seems like a wasted opportunity to me and is just not my style. Let’s strike out into new territory and try something unfamiliar!
I think about that now as I sign the contract selling my home of almost a decade. I’m getting ready to turn the page and write a brand new chapter in the book of my life. I’m buried in to-do lists and busy selling long-held possessions. I remind myself that, like a mountain climber, you have to let go to progress. As a caterpillar sheds its chrysalis, I will shed about 2/3 of what I have and emerge incredibly light and free.
Slowly, each item is ticked off the list as I acquire each ingredient for my exciting new experience, the meal of my new life.
Appropriately, my oldest friend who has seen me through every single transition and adaptation raises her hand yet again for this one. Our over 50 year friendship will once again have her by my side helping in any way she can, as always, seeing that I don’t have to make the journey to the next course of my life all alone. She has volunteered to join me in preparation of the feast of my life anew by accompanying me for the 1200 mile drive, Thelma & Louise style (as my elderly dog and cat probably wouldn’t do well in the cargo hold of an airplane). These two New York pizza and bagel girls will load up and head due south, listening to some country and blues, stopping for cornbread and BBQ, fried catfish and pickles and maybe a Bushwhacker when the day is done!
My approach to food and to life may not be for everyone. Like Netflix’s show Crazy Delicious where three contestants are charged to think outside the box and come up with dishes that are meant to surprise, whether by form or by sometimes incredibly odd sounding combinations of flavor, it’s not for everyone. Many want predictability. What sustains them should be made and served the usual way, the way they’ve always had it. I knew a family that had their weekly menu on the refrigerator and it never varied: Monday – chicken, Tuesday-burgers, Wednesday-meatloaf, and so on. For them, it was cozy and dependable. What gives some comfort is that the taste and look of their meals is predictable and consistent.
For some of us, however, the staid and traditional can sometimes feel mundane and constrictive. I want to try the Color Changing Lemonade or a giant rainbow ravioli filled with smaller ravioli and bolognese sauce or maybe the banana tacos, arancini drumsticks or a “cheeseburger” that’s really a dessert!
When life has stalled and we’re just not finding what we seek, it’s time to create a fresh, new menu. It’s a gamble. Some dishes may flop. Bliss isn’t without risk, but there’s no way to discover the new, the fresh, the WOW without a little bit of a leap. And so, I jump!
I will pack away all the plans for my life here that just didn’t work out, in the now empty garage, and slowly lower the door on them all. I’ll climb into the drivers seat and adjust the rear view mirror taking one last look back. I think I see him there, a misty apparition, ghostlike and elusive, as always. True to form, when I try to reach out or dare to get too close, he fades into a wisp before disappearing completely. I firmly put the car in drive and move forward, creator of my own menu, architect of my own destiny, headed, hopefully, toward something CRAZY delicious!