I’m planning my food shopping list for Christmas. It’s very exciting to me. I’m one of those rare people who actually likes going to the grocery store. The only time I dread it is when I have to go alone. For so many years I could always count on having a kid or two with me, and when Stephanie and Alex were no longer available to go, Rob became my shopping partner.
I really love going at this time of year. The local Safeway is brimming with treats and seasonal offerings that make the whole place seem festive. I like to explore the imported cheese display, check out the specialty foods and consider what candies and tidbits to put in the stockings. I am the resident stocking filler, assisted by Stephanie when we spend Christmas together. There are a lot of choices. Since I rarely buy candy except at Christmas and Halloween, I’m surprised by new products that I haven’t seen or tried before. But I usually pick something tried and true: a Toblerone bar or truffles or one of the particular favorites of our kids. Rob doesn’t really eat candy, so I look at fruit for him. The red grapefruit, Clementines and pomegranates are the best. And they fill a stocking nicely.
When Rob and I go to the grocery I am always in a good mood. I think the connection between the intimacy of meal planning and eating together is what does it for me. (Of course he sometimes finds romantic things to say in the produce department, but that’s another post.) It may seem like an odd choice of words to describe something so seemingly mundane. Intimacy and Safeway?! But there’s something touching to me about planning our meals, what we want to share, who will cook what, and it inspires me to look forward to each dinner, each breakfast. We are not simply eating: we are being together. And I’m happy to say that we are both at our low weight goals for ourselves. So even though I consider myself something of a foodie, and we both enjoy eating, we are NOT out of control. Yay!
My daughter and I had this conversation a couple of days ago…you are either into food, or you’re not. If you’re not, cooking is a chore and not fulfilling. And while there are times when I am not interested in being in the kitchen either, in general I find a lot of pleasure in the process from start to finish. Now, thinking about what dishes to make when Alex visits for Christmas, I remember the things he liked to eat when he was still living at home: shepherd’s pie, thick potato soup with cheese and bacon; homemade rolls; shrimp; cookies right out of the oven are a few of his favorites. I’m excited to cook for him again and to show him that although he’s been out of the nest for a while now, these foods are still part of coming home and being pampered a bit during his stay.
Food taken to an unhealthy extreme is not good. But like the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, there is a level that is just right: food fills, cherishes, warms the heart. It’s one of the biggest elements families share together. If you’ve been shorting your dinner time, don’t miss the chance to sit at the same table with the people who are important in your life. And at the risk of sounding like a mom, if you are the chief cook and bottle washer in your home, put some thought into the experience. Knowing the food likes and dislikes of your family shows that you are tuned in, that you are paying attention, that you care. I don’t mean food or the table setting has to be fancy to be nourishing; of course not. But as long as you have to eat anyway, wouldn’t it be more fun if the food is good? And the place to start is at the grocery. My advice: make menus and a shopping list, be adventurous with recipes…it is much easier to have great meals if you are prepared. And then do it from the heart. Look for the intimacy. It’s there between each aisle.