Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The True Definition of a Foodie (According to the Reynolds' Dictionary)

I was in the middle of a very random, non-food-related activity the other day when all of a sudden—like, out of totally nowhere—the thought passed through my mind:
I really miss sitting down to a meal with the Reynolds.
There was a momentary pause in the random task I was completing. The timing of the thought startled me, but upon further reflection, the thought itself did not. It did, however, give me cause to ponder. Ponder for days, in fact.

The Reynolds have been wonderful friends of mine from the moment we first met, but they became a total lifeline to me during my separation and divorce—answering phone calls made out of loneliness and confusion, driving to pick me up so I could join their dinner party, calmly pouring me a glass of wine while willingly listening to my tears and ramblings (totally allowing me to ruin their previously fun evening) and providing me with sage advice.

And when the madness was all said and done, they followed my journey onward: drank countless martinis and bottles of wine with me as I experienced my newfound self and true independence for the first time in my life; met my new boyfriend (Chef Reiton) with open arms; kept the communication lines and last-minute dinner invites open after I moved from Chicago to Wisconsin; and celebrated every single joyous minute of Chef Reiton's and my backyard wedding celebration (like, literally; the Reynolds were the last ones to leave).

The Reynolds have been the truest of friends to me; that is a fact. But it was my week-long pondering that made me realize it was the stage on which the development of our relationship was set that made that exact thought pass through my consciousness. Truly, almost every single interaction that Cyndy, Perry and I have ever had has been set around sitting down to a meal together and just being. For hours at a time we carry on real talk about our real lives while we enjoy real food (and drink. Lots and lots of drink.).

Food for the Reynolds, I now realize, is a gift. It is a gift magnanimously given over the course of an evening during which, somehow, you feel that you are the main event. No matter how many times I have sat down with the Reynolds to a meal—and many of those times started at Cucina Paradiso, a fabulous little Italian restaurant that was a few blocks from our homes, and ended on the Reynolds' balcony in the wee hours of the morning—I have been made to feel enjoyed, cared for, listened to, respected, loved. Loved through the food and loved through the attention given to me and what I had going on in my life at the moment.

And it wasn't just evenings spent at Cucina where I felt this way. Many of our evenings spent were small get-togethers at their home. Traipsing up the stairs to their flat, I would be greeted by Perry who would lift me off the floor in a hug before leading me to the kitchen to find Cyndy. There she would be, masterfully finishing the touches on the food prepared by her own loving hands and artistic eye (I say "artistic" because it is not uncommon to hear Cyndy use adjectives like "gorgeous," "lovely" or "beautiful" as she is describing food). There I would be greeted with her own hugs and smiles. Then would come the barrage of questions about my life...the further questioning as the wine was poured...the laying out of a simple but beautiful appetizer board...

And that was the start of the evening.

I wish you could experience it. Cyndy and Perry don't just "have a way" of making you feel like the world's greatest guest. For that evening, you really are.

And there is more to it. You know how I said that Cyndy has this artistic way with food? It's something that I noticed about her the first time I went to their house for dinner. Food, for Cyndy, isn't just made to taste good. It's prepared to look good, too. And in eating my first lovely meal at their home, I noticed something about myself as a gorgeously arranged platter of food was set in front of me: I felt honored. Cyndy's meal was so simple yet so obviously created with love and care for the visual and culinary experience of her guests.

It's the combination of both those things—the warmth and sincere curiosity that they have about you AND the beautiful presentation of a delicious meal so lovingly prepared—that made me realize that is what makes me miss my meals with them. I miss the activity of their friendship and I miss feeling loved with their laughter, wine and beautiful food. Because that—all of it—is their love language.

Upon that realization, a secondary thought hit me:
I want to be like that with my heart and my food. 
I want people to know that I love them because of the straight-up, honest-to-goodness food I prepare for them. I want to set that stage and then take the time in an evening to demonstrate true, sincere care in getting to know my guests. Because I'm realizing that is the true definition of a foodie.

It's not about taking great food pictures or being able to go out to this restaurant or that restaurant and enjoying someone else's amazing food, or even about writing a food blog.

Being a foodie is about learning how to make your own delicious food, no matter how simple, and sharing it with people you love while providing them an evening to relax, talk about themselves, and be heard, honored and cared for.

Cyndy and Perry, my true foodie friends—you are missed.

And thank you.

The True Definition of a Foodie (According to the Reynolds' Dictionary)

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