Three years ago, we almost lost our apartment. We were buried under medical and veterinary bills, we found ourselves owing a fortune in back taxes due to an accounting error – we were in the red in every single way possible. I had no idea how we would – or if we even could – dig ourselves out of that pit. But you wouldn’t have known about that, just from looking at these pages. That year I spent a few hundred bucks sourcing out food for a Thanksgiving feast for an article that would pay me about half that amount. It was a great meal, and despite everything, we still had a lot to be grateful for.
Two years ago, we spent an entire day cooking up a spectacular meal: a heritage turkey, cooked two ways, all sorts of trimmings and sides. Though we were a party of two, there was food and drink enough for an army, and after a bit too much of the latter and a huge fight, I threw my wedding band across the living room and stormed out into the night, dinner uneaten. The weight and wear of all we had been struggling with over the previous years, the losses we had suffered, some still fresh and raw, brought us to a breaking point that night. I wasn’t sure our marriage would survive.
But you wouldn’t have known that either. The next day, I pulled bowls and platters from the fridge, made up a couple of plates, and took photos by daylight while Mike made coffee. We ate in silence. He dug my wedding band out from behind the bookshelves later that morning.
One year ago, we had a 9-week old baby boy in our lives. We slow-roasted a duck, kept sides and drinks to a minimum, took a long walk through the crisp November air, snapped lots of photos. It was the simplest and happiest Thanksgiving we had had in years. It felt like the start of something. And when I look back at my posts from that day, finally, I see the truth reflected.
One reason I took an extended break from posting here is because I was beginning to feel pressure to be something I wasn’t. I felt like I had to put on a false face, put forward some idealized vision of our life, to hide the fact that it isn’t always cocktails and charcuterie, thirty dollar pastured chickens and good bottles of wine. It was all too much. There are weeks when we’re flush and we can spend a fair amount on food and drink, but more often than not these days, I am trying to figure out how I can best spend thirty bucks on enough good food to last us all week.
But you know what? I am so grateful for that. We have so much.
Our life has changed, is changing – every day, it seems. Just when we think we’re in a good groove, a routine, something happens to change that. A delayed departure from work, a late train or a cranky toddler can disrupt everything. We had a stretch where we were able to eat dinner together every night before putting Jules to bed. Then we lived in a hotel for nine days. Then we moved to New York, without our furniture, our belongings – it was a month before we were able to get them out of storage and into our new space. I went back to work, and Mike and Julian got back into their daily routine at home, and just as we were settling back in to a predictable schedule, things changed again.
But that’s life. That is our life, and I want to capture our reality, preserve it here. I want to remember these times, these meals.
And I want Julian to remember.
The dishes I make from night to night are tasty and nourishing, but there is absolutely nothing sexy about them. They wouldn’t be sexy if I had a DSLR to photograph them with and a wardrobe of twee table linens to shoot them against. And that has kept me from capturing them, from cataloging them like I used to. I’ve felt ashamed, in a way, like I couldn’t compete. But what I got away from is that this isn’t a competition, it’s our life. And I don’t want to hide it anymore.
I can look at the pale-hued Polaroids I swiped from my mom’s collection, and see the little girl I once was sitting on a couch at grandma’s house, surrounded by aunts and uncles who are beginning to fade away, and just by looking at them, I can conjure up the smell of grandma’s dressing, the flavors of my aunts’ creamy casseroles. I want my son to grow up with some record of the special meals of his childhood, and the ordinary ones too, something to spark his memories when he’s all grown up and too far away from home.
I want him to remember that the three of us ate together, as a family, every chance we got. Even if the photos aren’t perfect, and more of what’s on his plate ends up on the cats than in his belly these days, I want him to remember. I want him to remember when he looks at these pages that even if the meals were plain and unpretty, and sometimes mommy was tired and cranky, and some weeks we had plenty and some weeks we had less but we always had enough, that most importantly we had each other, and we loved each other fiercely, and we ate together, and we laughed, and we were grateful for it all.