A little time for a lot of good

Stuffed Greek peppers and spanakopita at one of our Friday Night Dinners. Taylor Smith

There are 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week and about 8,766 hours in a year. Most of us spend a significant amount of that time sleeping, attending classes or work, commuting and participating in various activities. How much of that time do you spend eating a meal with someone where you actually sit down at a table, without the distractions of television or other media, and carry on a conversation while eating a home-cooked meal? Chances are, if you’re wracking your brain trying to think of the last time you spent an evening at the kitchen table, it’s been far too long.

In the age of Martha Stewart and a host of other chefs who whip out “picture perfect” culinary masterpieces, it’s no wonder that some may be intimidated to crack open a cookbook or explore the spices they’ve had in their pantry for the last ten years. With food, there is no end to the list of possible creations … which is why I find food so intriguing and wonderful! Yet, because cooking lends itself to so many different directions, it can be an intimidating activity to jump into. When flipping through the pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child’s description of how to julienne a carrot or braise an onion might make one’s head spin. “Is there a difference between an eggplant and an aubergine?” you might ask. “Oh screw it! This is too complicated!” … and that’s it. You close the book and set it back on the shelf to collect dust as if has since the day you bought it when you were feeling particularly in touch with your inner chef.
Most have either a romantic or chaotic image of cooking. What stigma you have attached to the art may dictate how you choose to spend your meals: eating at a restaurant, grabbing a Big Mac from McDonald’s, sitting alone with a bowl of Cheerios or serving bowls of your new pasta primavera recipe to your next door neighbors. Which one are you?
If you desire to be part of that last image – to enjoy that sense of communion with your family, friends, and heck, even strangers, all it takes is a little time and commitment. The amount of time you need to prepare part of a meal and share it with others, when compared to how many hours we have each day, week and year, is relatively small. Think about the large chunks of time you set aside to work on a paper, practice for a triathlon or spend driving from your house to work each day. Shouldn’t you give an equally important part of your day doing something that adds to your physical, psychological and emotional well being? To this I propose a challenge… can you spend at least one night a week where you commit to spend an hour creating a new dish and then share it with someone? If we can’t manage to spare the time to do that, then I think we have some bigger issues to examine.

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