I start the New Year with an inspirational piece that has nothing to do with medicine. In two weeks we’ll go back to aches, pain, and disease. For now I ask you to allow yourself to recharge your engines.
I ask my children to come for dinner every Sunday. It started out as a way for me to keep in touch with what they were up to once they left the household to be on their own. In order to encourage them to attend I told them that I’d learn how to cook, and that most of the Sunday meals would be made by my own hands.
This was a big deal. I had been raised in a Hispanic household, where men were discouraged from participating in chores around the house. I don’t think that my father knew how to turn on a stove. If any of my childhood friends had known that I had an interest in cooking my life would have been turned into a living hell.
I realized that times change. I bought a couple of Caribbean cookbooks, and with much help from my wife I learned enough to make five main courses, which I rotate through the month. There’s always a salad, and fruit plus a piece of dark chocolate is served at the end of the meal.
The rewards have been great. I always know what’s going on. I have had the opportunity to screen almost all of my daughters’ potential suitors. Occasionally one of the kids will bring a friend; also a good time to know who they’re running around with. Of late we have expanded to five children and five grandchildren. It gets expensive and it’s pure chaos, but all the inconvenience has been worth it. There are few things as valuable as reliable information.
About the fruit. Of course it’s easier to supply during Spring and Summer, but I manage to find enough edible “stuff” to feed the troops. I peel all pertinent items; I throw away disappointing fruit; I try to make it look pretty. A few years ago eldest daughter took note of this fact:
“Dad, your fruit is always so good! Where do you get it?”
“Same place you get yours. At the supermarket.”
“But sometimes the fruit I buy turns out bad. Yours is always good.”
“That’s because I don’t serve you the bad one.”
Excellent life lesson. Never serve bad fruit to the ones you love. Ideally never serve bad fruit to anyone, but there may not be enough good fruit available to accomplish this degree of perfection.
So take special care with the people you love and see on a daily basis. Throw away the worn out smiles. Keep clean and dress tidy. Always, always listen first. When bad news must be given or digested, try very hard to come up with a way that this fruit will not have an unpleasant taste.
As I said, it’s a lot of work and it may be more expensive. Yes, it can (and many times will) be chaotic. But the rewards are palpable and undeniable. For one, if a bad piece of fruit ever finds a way to sneak into the bowl the participants in this meal will know, for sure, that it was not your intention to put it there.
That peace of mind, that reputation, will be enough to justify all your preparation.