Food often figures prominently at the heart of my closest relationships, as well as at the center of my favorite recollections, my most memorable travels, and of course in regular, everyday living.
My partner of 16 years has been the one with whom I have shared some of the most incredible meals, close to home and far away. In fact, it was food that wove our lives together as friends, before we were even a couple. And it was at our wedding, 16 years ago today, that we shared a meal with family and friends in my parent’s backyard which we had prepared by hand and served out of my mother's kitchen. It was only fitting, since it was in my parent’s home that I learned to eat well, to grow my own vegetables and fruits, and to cook wonderful foods from scratch.
It quickly became a cornerstone of our marriage to open our home and prepare a table of food to eat with friends new and old. We’ve probably thrown well over one hundred dinner parties, and a couple of handfuls of big holiday parties – all with food made by hand, and with love. But whether we were having a meal with many or just a few, or even just the two of us, one thing has been constant – honoring the importance of sitting down together, while eating good food – simple or otherwise.
There have been plenty of reports over the years which connect eating family meals with more open communication, better grades, good behavior and better social adjustment for teens, lower incidences of substance abuse, and healthier lifelong nutritional habits for children in families who sit down to a shared meal.
Is that surprising? It is a powerful message to send that we have made ourselves too busy to sit and eat together, or that the television carries greater weight in our homes than each other during mealtimes. No doubt schedules are pulling families in many directions, but when something is important enough, time can be made, at least on a regular basis.
The bottom line, really, is alignment between what we profess to be important (family, good communication, healthy relationships with ourselves and with others, nutrition and physical activity, spiritual and mental health) and what we really end up doing. Of course finding that alignment is often not the easiest course – racing home from busy days fighting traffic, travel schedules, and workloads – but it’s probably one of the most critical to a happy life.
One of the things I appreciate most about my partner is that he keeps sacred the time that we spend together over meals. Even though time is stretched, travel schedules are busy, and workdays are long, carving out enough time to come home and share dinner together is a priority for the day. It is a time for us to check in, swap stories, plan for upcoming projects or travels or visits – and just to simply be together.
So in 16 years of marriage, I’ve learned a few things, among them that fact that he loves red sauce, potatoes and broccoli, but still won’t eat eggplant or shiitake mushrooms. Topping the list has to be declaring what is truly important, and then following through to make it happen. It hasn’t been a perfectly executed model, but with enough time and practice, I’d say we’re getting there.
So cheers to us, and to you and yours – and to many more meals eaten together.
Rösti (Swiss Shredded Potato Pancake)
4 medium russet or Yukon Gold potatoes (allow 1-2 per person)
pinch of salt for each potato
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, or a combination of both
Shred scrubbed potatoes onto a large cutting board or bowl and toss with salt and pepper.
Heat a cast-iron skillet or other heavy skillet over medium-low heat until very warm to the touch. Add oil or butter and swirl to coat the entire surface of the pan. Sprinkle the shredded potatoes evenly over the entire pan surface, leaving a 1/4” space around the entire perimeter. Long method: cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes on the first side, or until deeply golden brown and crispy. Flip the entire pan with potato cake onto a large cover or cookie sheet. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary. Slide the potato cake back into the skillet and cook, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes.
Shorter method: cook, covered, for about 10 minutes or until the first side is a deep, golden brown. Re-oil pan and flip as directed above, but cook uncovered on the second side to develop a nice crust, about 10 minutes. When second side is finished, flip the cake back to recrisp the first side.
Carefully slide the entire potato cake onto a cutting board and cut into wedges, or cut in pan, and serve immediately.