Food for Thought

Around the table

With the holidays readily approaching, people across the country are preparing.

Some buy decorations, some buy presents, some buy plane tickets, some buy random crazy stuff that I don’t even know about. But I guarantee that one section on everyone’s shopping list as we move towards the end of November and into December is menu items for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

Each holiday has its own significance, for individuals and groups, but the centerpiece of each yearly gathering is a momentous meal around which friends and family can share a common goal of clearing the table and being so full they can’t stand up. But what is it about this time of year that brings so many people together at the dining room table? Simply put: people enjoy eating together.

Whether it’s a Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings or beef Wellington or homemade lasagna or a vegan potluck, these holidays bring all manner of culinary explorers to the forefront, inspiring them to create a meal worthy of this season and of the people in attendance. 

Sometimes it’s a small family who sees each other all the time, and sometimes it’s a family or group of friends who seldom come together. But always there is time shared around the table, passing the salt and pepper, serving from platters and basins. And always there is the enjoyment of a well-made meal shared with people who care about each other.

That is what I love so much about food!

I accept that everyone has to eat. It is a basic human necessity that cannot be healthily avoided. But in the face of such a requirement, people around the world take this basic need and go overboard, creating concoctions and combinations simply because they can. And it is the enjoyment, the pure pleasure of trying something so simple or so complex, that excites taste buds in new ways and sharing that experience with others, which is the driving force behind this innovation.

Truly one of the most enjoyable and enriching experiences I have had at Chops is the opportunity to be creative, to have an idea and be able to experiment, paired with the added bonus of sharing these experiments with family and friends both new and old. I admit that people to this day still look over our menu with a questioning eye, asking if we really put apples on a sandwich or wondering, “What is remoulade?” 

But for every skeptic who darkens our door, there are plenty who have taken a leap of faith and tried something outside of their comfort zone only to find a new favorite flavor, a new port of call if you will, to be returned to upon each subsequent visit or to serve as a starting point on a new and exciting culinary adventure.

So this holiday season, remember to be thankful. Be thankful for the bounty that is available, even if comes down to a contest over who can most creatively engineer ramen noodles. 

Be thankful for family and friends who encircle the dinner table and share in conversation and/or food fights. 

Be thankful and remember that while food is an ever-important part of life, that doesn’t mean it can’t be exciting.

Chops Deli co-owner Brad Corpening learned the joys of cooking early on, scrambling eggs for his family’s Saturday morning breakfast. “The rest, as they say, is history.”

To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to www.markweberart.blogspot.com