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I’m extremely lucky to be married to my best friend. He’s the person I most love to be around, to hang out with, to explore new places with. So much of our lives revolve around food and travel together, my husband and me. And we have explored some fabulous places together.
The other night we sat on the couch after eating an amazing home-cooked meal of sizzling steak sandwich overflowing with sautéed peppers and jalapeno cheese, and we started reminiscing about all the drool-worthy meals we’d tasted around the world, at restaurants, people’s homes, in our home. The skigoku oysters in Bellingham, Washington, the tiny goat cheese ravioli in Munich, drinking caramel with fresh whipped cream and black pepper in our own kitchen. It’s been so much of our life, connecting to people, places and each other through food and travel.
Recently I got to go away with him on one of his business trips. Grandma came to stay with our kids, and my husband and I boarded a plane to Utah. He worked during the day and I sat with my view of the Wasatch Mountains to write as much as I could without interruption, heaven!
At night we tried different restaurants because it’s one of our favorite things to do together. This wasn’t an anniversary trip, a birthday adventure, or any uniquely special occasion, it was just a chance for the two of us to be together.
Our second night of the trip we bundled up in our winter coats and walked to a fun-sounding, hip restaurant. We ordered a bottle of Prosecco to share and when the waiter delivered it to our table he asked us what we were celebrating. We looked at each other and smiled, enjoying good food together in a new place, we told ourselves as much as we told him.
We sat at the chef’s counter while the small restaurant quickly filled up around us. We watched the young, skinny and tattooed, chefs and sous chefs, each one too cool to smile, intent on their creations. While we ordered and drank a glass of bubbly, we watched them make the delectable items on the menu, tuna crudo, seared halibut, grilled venison chops, roasted Brussels sprouts, sauces from scratch for each plate of food.
When they set down our plates we couldn’t wait to dive in. Only, what we tasted wasn’t delectable. Instead, each one was a tiny measure of disappointment. A tuna crudo that didn’t need the tuna it was so overshadowed by everything else on the plate, an over-cooked, under-seasoned, too-big piece of halibut.
Being only a few feet from the chefs in this open kitchen, I watched them make the same mistakes over and over, plating the seared fish in a sauce which essentially dissolved the sear, forgetting to put the finishing salt on a plate or too. Overcooking the steak. I wanted to tell them how to season, where to place the fish on the plate, to forego the stinky tasting Swiss chard they paired with each dish. My inner food critic begged to come out, as she always does. Not such a great meal after all, I thought.
And then my husband started telling me about his day at work, about the figurative fire they’d been trying to put out. He mentioned that one of his colleagues praised him and his role in how things turned out, that they couldn’t have solved the problem without my husband.
It surprised me at first, him telling me these things about his day, not because he never talks about work, he does. And not because I don’t know he’s good at his job, I do, but because he sounded both surprised and comforted that these people championed him. My husband, this person I love to be with, rarely tells me this kind of thing, because he is humble, and he just enjoys going to work every day.
Suddenly, duh, the food didn’t really matter at all. My smile became genuine, and, surrounded by the warmth and bustle, yet relaxed right next to my favorite person, I realized this, THIS is what we are celebrating, him. The so-so food didn’t matter, the too-eager waiter didn’t matter. The fact that the Prosecco was a bit warm, or the weird seasoning in the polenta dish didn’t matter.
None of that mattered.
Getting to sit next to my husband, while he shared about a good day at work was what mattered. Hearing the pride in his voice at realizing his co-workers believed in him. That’s what we were celebrating. Him, us, and the rare opportunity of sitting next to each other at a cozy bar, while someone else cooked our meal and took care of us on a chilly, clear, fall night with the stars out. While someone else took care of our kids and all their needs. While we got a chance to connect with each other over our days. I realized what was important, and the rest sort of fell away.
And for one brief moment I wondered how often do we do that in life, focus on the things that don’t matter in the moment, instead of grasping onto the stars. And then I smiled and took advantage of my lightbulb moment, because it wouldn’t have mattered if the food was phenomenal and all the critiques coming out of my mouth were five-star worthy. Listening to my husband express happiness in his difficult job and being proud of him filled me up instead in a much more meaningful way.
Seeing and acknowledging each other, that’s where the celebration truly existed, in these suffused, tiny moments of joy in each other’s presence. Appreciating the quiet, intimate moment despite the food not being everything I expected it to be. Because I just really enjoyed hanging out with my husband, and here I was handed an opportunity to be in his presence and connect with him. And cheers to that.
What are you celebrating? Cheers to celebrating what’s really important in your life.