The Little Things: The Perfect Meal August 2nd, 2010
On Friday I posted a little list of things we can do (actually do) to improve ourselves and the world around us. It felt good to dedicate a post to small tangible things, after focusing for more than six months on abstract and sometimes complicated thoughts. Over the weekend I thought (ironic, I realize) more about some of the small and simple things in life and this week I’m dedicating my posts to the topic of little things that make a big difference.
We didn’t have plans for Friday night. It had been a long and draining week for me and I wasn’t really up for cooking dinner. GAP and I had the pizza vs. leftovers debate and opted for leftovers. This was really a decision that we backed into; he’d eaten a big lunch and wasn’t very hungry and I wasn’t especially in the mood for pizza. It turned out to be the best accidental decision of my week.
Recently my favorite food blogger (Deb at Smitten Kitchen) posted this recipe for scalloped tomatoes. It’s the kind of dish I would have reluctantly choked down at my mother’s insistence as a child. But as an adult it is some kind of magic to me. The way the tomatoes break down in the pan. The way they sweeten and caramelize with heat. The way the crusty bread soaks up their juices and becomes something completely new. And the way the whole affair becomes the ideal platform for a poached egg, as Deb suggests.
Lately I’ve been making about a batch of this delicious mess each week. I portion it out into plastic containers and take it to work for lunch. Or, as was the case on Friday, I spoon it into a bowl and curl up on the couch with it. It is not pretty, but for me it is perfect. In this world of garnishes and flair and finishing touches (both culinary and otherwise) I love this meal which doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. It doesn’t call for a sprig of fresh basil on each serving. Nor does it request to be baked in individual dishes for a lovelier presentation (transferring giant scoops from baking dish to plate or bowl does nothing for the aesthetics of this dish). It is cheap and easy to make – not the kind of thing you’d serve to company, to be sure. If it were served to you in a restaurant you might send it back on looks alone. But when the fork hits your mouth you sort of hunker down in your seat and hunch protectively over your food.
Simply put, this dish makes me happy. Really, really happy. And on Friday night I actually identified with it in some way. I sat at home when many adults were out. My makeup was smudged and my energy flagged. I felt crumpled and bruised. Yet when I looked down at my simple supper I was comforted. Perhaps this is a big metaphor to ask of a leftover bowl of scalloped tomatoes. But I liked knowing that something so utterly lacking in pretense could pack such a delicious punch. I will not start this week with smudged makeup or mussed up hair. Nevertheless, it’s comforting to think that even if I did that might still be okay.