Magazine Envy

Have you ever looked through the pages of Food & Wine or Bon Appetit and seen the photo spreads of people eating a great meal al fresco. There’s a table set up outside in a field somewhere with a colorful striped tablecloth and matching napkins, candles and lights adorning umbrellas and fences and centerpieces made from fresh produce or flowers that look like they were picked that day. The food, of course, is laid out on beautiful platters and garnished just so. The people are smiling and happy and you wonder, "Who are these people? Who eats like that?"

Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve become one of those people. And I’ve also learned that there is nothing in this world that makes me happier than the time I spend cooking those meals, preparing that table and then sharing a wonderful evening with that wine and that food with friends and family.

And what makes those repasts even more enjoyable is when that meal becomes a collaborative effort. This weekend’s repast involved my brother-in-law at the grill making ribs and chicken with mole sauce and mixing drinks; my sister in the garden cutting her flowers for the centerpeices and trying her hand at skillet cornbread; and me, in the kitchen, with a bunch of fresh produce from the local farmstand deciding on the best combination of flavors (I decided on a peach gazpacho; a watermelon, tomato and feta salad; and corn, tomatoes and red onions). It didin’t hurt that we were at their beach home and it was a warm, star-filled summer night.

Was it perfect? Well, the cornbread was a little dry and the peach pie that someone brought for dessert tasted like it had been made from canned rather than the fresh local peaches currently in season. But it made me realize that behind those beautiful magazines there’s probably some dry cornbread and some bland peach pie. And it still looks, and probably is, perfect.

So, yes, I’m one of those people. Envy me.