Arranging the Pieces… Making room for other people

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By Tabitha Bozeman

Last week, I met up with a friend for lunch at one of our favorite local restaurants: The Choice. I have been going to The Choice since I was about six years old, after it opened in 1984. Seeing all the old photos and smelling the delicious food was always a treat when I was a child, and it is still a treat today. Then, it was a place where the adults talked and ate, while we sat and looked and listened. Today, it is where Adult Me gets to go talk and eat and catch up with friends. It is also a place where the employees have become friends I look forward to seeing, and where the comfort food is dependably delicious.

My friend and I almost always sit in the same spot, in the back hallway, where it is quieter, and we can focus on our visit. The older I have gotten, the trickier it is to catch up with friends. We have work, children and busy schedules — when the stars finally align for a lunch together, knowing the food will be consistently great is one less thing to worry about.

Food and friendship often complement one another, and sharing a meal with someone can be comforting, and offering of friendship, or an acknowledgment that you are willing to arrange the pieces of your life to make space for others.

Virginia Woolf said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Last semester, we often tested this assertion in our Creative Writing class when various students brought treats to class. One student — well-known for her baking prowess — even surprised us with cupcakes for my birthday. Another student brought a salad and homemade falafel to class one week — it was the first time a few students had ever tried food from a different culture. Some of our best writing workshops last semester happened over these cookies, cakes and salads.

This semester, a student originally from Egypt gifted us with Egyptian cookies, and a dessert called “Basbousa” — a thin coconut and semolina cake-like dessert sweetened with simple syrup — which she told me translates to “kiss kiss”. When I looked it up, I discovered that “Basbousa” is often used as a term of endearment, as well. This dish is also served as part of religious celebrations for both Christian and Muslim cultures, and I can see why — it is simple and delicious. My family tried the Basbousa and loved it. In fact, I’ve had to promise I will learn how to make it, it was so popular.

At our house, we have some picky-ish eaters. I have found that sometimes it isn’t the food they dislike, it is the unpredictability of the menu — they had no idea what to expect. I need them to eat, and to think well and write well for homework, so in order to make sure they first “dine well” we created a daily dinner menu that is generally the same every week, with some variation: Every Monday is “Italian”, every Tuesday is “Taco Tuesday”, every Wednesday is “Breakfast for Dinner”, and so on. Not only has this given them a sense of continuity, it has also taken some of the work out of the never-ending “What’s for dinner” question. As a result, we have been having much more pleasant meals, and enjoy that time together as a family more than when most of the meal was spent trying to get people to eat what was cooked. In fact, we’ve been playing a lot of family card games at the dinner table lately which has been a lot of fun.

The last time we had spend-the-night company over, one of my girls requested a specific breakfast, another asked to make a favorite snack and another helped cook dinner. They have been paying attention to what they like to eat and learning how to make these foods. They also take pride in sharing them with friends. I love seeing this because I know how something seemingly insignificant, like a quick afternoon snack, can actually provide a moment that says “I see you. I’m glad we are spending time together. You are an important part of my life.”

Tabitha Bozeman lives in Gadsden with her family and teaches English at Gadsden State Community College, where she is the editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Arts Journal. The opinions expressed in this column are her own. Tabitha may be reached via e-mail at tabithabozeman@gmail.com.

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