Before my days of Friday Night Dinner Parties, Fridays were reserved for restauranting with my dad.
No movies with the girls or midnight bowling trips (because I’ve always had too much of an old soul for late-night parties).
Besides, Fridays, I had a standing dinner date with 6-and-a-half feet of a goofball, heart-on-his-sleeve Dad.
The restaurant options were endless, yet our choices were often predictable. And while I have a hunger for tasting every restaurant in Portland these days, back then, I was all about the simple.
At one of our usual haunts, we could walk in, wave, and in a matter of minutes, two heaps of steaming pasta would arrive – mine topped with spicy marinara, his, seafood in a white wine sauce.
At another spot, we’d scoop up pails of peanuts to munch on before baskets of hamburgers on sesame-seed buns were slathered with ketchup and mustard.
We were a couple of knuckle heads, Dad and I. People who watched us squirt water on each other and arm wrestle probably wondered if this tall man had any intention of teaching his daughter any manners. (Not to worry, folks. My high school friends made me a manual on “How to Become a Lady”)
On Friday nights, there was no talk of work or school. Fridays nights, we were kids. And the food on our plates was tasty and uncomplicated. But it was never about the food, really.
It was about us -father and daughter- our night out on the town (or down the road), to laugh, let loose, talk, celebrate, cry when we missed our third musketeer.
Dinner time has always been sacred for me.
These days, I can’t help but think of him as I get ready for a dinner out, last touch of blush dusted on cheeks before dashing out the door and sitting down to a table.
Maybe that’s why I love restaurants so much, or why I read menus before going to bed (yes, true confession).
Most times, my restaurant readings aren’t about researching my next foodie find.
It’s daydreaming, imagining the places where families, or couples, or friends, gather to nourish. To praise. To celebrate. To honor each other with their time and the gift of a night where someone else takes care of the cooking and cleaning.
But I suppose that what’s on the menu isn’t the most important part of the experience. All that matters is that there is a menu, just a simple menu, one that will fuel the memories of those who we dine with – first tastes of pork belly ramen forever connected with that friend who turned out to be your bridesmaid, rosemary focaccia nibbled with your new neighbors, welcoming them to their new home.
I’m thankful for menus. Thankful for dinners out. Thankful for a dad who faithfully took me out to dinner, even if I was a wild child. Thankful that he helped me see the gift of joining with others in the tastiest form of communion.