Made with Love

Last  Saturday afternoon, every surface in my usually-neat kitchen was covered with condiments, vegetables, spices or soon-to-be-cooked meat. The scent of roasting chicken wafted from the oven and meat sizzled in a pot as my son browned beef cubes in oil for a stew. My daughter stood at the counter next to him, handing him the ingredients he needed.

Christmas for our family was hijacked by COVID, as it was for many families. None of us contracted it, but my son had been exposed and was waiting for test results. Different factors and scheduling conflicts meant that we could only get together last Saturday. None of us wanted to try to re-create Christmas. The tree and decorations were long-gone and we all wanted to move away from 2021 and, hopefully, to a better 2022 for all of us. 

So we chose to do a cooking day – a Saturday spent prepping meals for the week.  We each chose recipes and bought ingredients to make enough for all of us. Ben picked our daughter, Luce, up at the train station around lunch time. Erik, arms laden with bags of food, his own pots and pans and an impressive cutting knife arrived shortly afterwards. He quickly (and efficiently) usurped my place at the stove and I didn’t mind a bit.

Ben sat at one end of the kitchen table creating a colorful mosaic of chopped vegetables for a recipe: vibrant-orange carrots, bright yellow and red peppers, translucent white onions and the soothing pale-green of celery. I slipped into the chair next to him and watched my daughter and son deep in conversation. They leaned their heads closer together to be heard over the whirring of the stove fan and the sizzle of the meat. “I guess we’re not really needed here,” I said to Ben. He knew I meant this in the best possible way. He lifted his eyes from the cutting board and glanced towards our adult children just as they laughed about something one of them said. “No,” said Ben with a smile. “We’re not.”

There was no fancy table setting, no uncomfortable holiday outfits, no Christmas carols, no turkey or stuffing and no expectations to make this a perfect day. Instead, the day was a chaotic jumble for the senses:  a rainbow of colored veggies, the smell of meat cooking, voices raised in conversation, music, a warm fire in the next room and laughter. At the end, we all had containers filled with hearty soup, chicken in a spicy red sauce, a rich brown stew and chicken enchiladas in salsa verde – all made with love. It felt pretty perfect to me.

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