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The chef and restaurateur reflects on what quarantine has meant for a return to dinners and conversations with family and friends.
As a kid in the late ’60s, early ’70s, there seemed to be a universally-mandated dinner time in America: just after the 6 o’clock news.
My mom’s food was … well, it was … ummmm, let’s just say I really looked forward to “TV Dinner” night – Salisbury Steak in all its glory, and something that resembled fruit cobbler in a square compartment of the tin tray.
RECIPE: Bobby Flay’s Salisbury Steak
What mattered wasn’t what was on the dinner table; it’s what was accomplished at the table: real conversations.
To be honest, I usually answered my parents’ questions with “yeah, good,” or “it’s fine.” But the dinner table is where my mom quelled fears of mine, like serial killers (such as the Son of Sam), and it’s where my dad taught me what it meant to have a good work ethic and what it can bring to your life.
As the ’80s and ’90s ushered in enthusiasm for purely financial gain, the family meal was replaced by a sandwich from the local deli, or a night out in glamour-filled, expense-account restaurants. And with this came the realization we were losing those times at the family table where we figured out how to deal with the world, a celebration of its successes, and a deliberation of its failures.
In the late ’90s, I was lucky enough to be caught up in the Food Revolution that provided me with a career. But more importantly, it gave me a way to communicate and show my adoration to the people I care about the most: my family and my friends.
I’m always going to look forward to breaking bread at my table, not just as a concept but in actuality. I have cooked over 200 different dishes since the middle of March. The one consistent thing is that it’s all been family style, so my newer, quarantined bubble family can share it, well, like family.
We debate with each other; we educate each other; and most importantly, we listen to each other. There have been some tears, for sure, but mostly it’s been smiles and uncontrollable laughs.
This pandemic will be part of all of us forever. I for one will admit I’m better for the face-to-face conversations that fill my kitchen every day. It’s one of the things I hope to hold on to when “normal” comes storming back.
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Story produced by Julie Kracov. Editor: George Pozderec.
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