I love to eat (not surprising!) I really love to have a meal with friends – it’s the best of both worlds. You get to hang with some great folks who likely get your brand of wackiness and enjoy a delish dish of some sort. But, I’ve really discovered that not all friends are created equal when you sit down to the table.
Let’s start with family ‘cause really – they are easy targets. Overall, we’re a family of tasters. We pick (a disgusting habit most visible after holiday dinners,) we offer and accept a taste of what others have. We don’t always ask. My sister D used to be notorious for saying no to anything offered and then eating off my plate. The only thing that kept me from stabbing her hand with my fork was the glaring look from my mother. D ultimately outgrew the “nothing for me” phase but still eats off my plate once in a while. I still have the occasional urge to stab her hand with my fork but impress myself with amazing self-restraint. And, fear that my mother will haunt me.
We’re also a family of adventurous eaters. Both parents were like this but my father would eat eyeballs if given the chance. That man loved the most disgusting, smelly, new or different foods he could find. He was not what one would call an involved parent in school - except for the International Fair held in downtown DC every year. He would chaperone because they had endless food booths where he could sample every odd or unusual edible. He could not locate a child in his group but he could tell you where to find the booth with the best curried goat.
Now V must be fed at regular intervals – like a toddler. God help everyone around if she gets too hungry. It’s not pretty and really, just give her what she wants, stay out of her way and everybody will be fine. S likes to keep in pretty healthy and R is easy – easier if the menu includes something from the agave family.
Old friends are easy to dine with – we know what the other likes and tasting off each other’s plates is likely the norm. This weekend, T and I will be dining out often – and will be sure to order different things because we get plate envy and will need to taste test. My dear friend, G has a love/hate relationship about going out to eat with me. According to him, I take too long to order, have to change something and everything is “on the side.” He shakes his head and reminds me this is just one meal. But, he’ll almost always take a taste.
Going out in groups can be a challenge if everyone isn’t on the same page. I’m all for just splitting the check based on number of folks at the table. But, I totally get those that don’t feel inclined to fork over for either the costly or vast number of drinks imbibed by just a few. I’m the one that just tries to make it easy – I bring cash and include a bit of extra to offset the (other) drunkards who don’t always realize they may need to pony up some extra.
Dining out with friends and their kids is whole different experience. My Big Susan M and I have, on more than one occasion, left a very generous tip for the horrific mess our two
demonic sweet girls left on the table, under the table and in the seats. We also left a tip when our girls licked (yes, licked) a giant plate glass window in a sports bar. We only discovered this because the people on the street were pointing and laughing hysterically. We were both so proud.
Now, I try hard to bring lunch to work because a.) it’s cheaper and I now support a house and a kid with a riding habit and b.) the work cafeteria sucks (i.e. they have served bacon and liver casserole.) Despite my best efforts, there are times when I buy. My work friend S and I will trudge upstairs and try to pick the least of all the evils but now, once a month, we have Break Bread Wednesday. I know we sound like dorks (well, we likely are dorks) but we make ourselves go someplace new, have a nice lunch and try not to talk about work. I’ve joined the Groupon bandwagon and we’re both excited to try a new Indian place.
But some of the best dining with friends is the holidays. In the last couple of weeks, my table was filled with family and friends as we welcomed the Jewish New Year. We then atoned and broke fast (given the food we ate, you would think we’d fasted for a week) with friends at J’s house. I will host Thanksgiving and the winter holiday’s will include a latke feast at my place to celebrate eight crazy nights and we’ll welcome the fat man in the red suit with M’s family. These meals are loud, the kids are running around like crazy, we spend a ton of time cooking, cleaning and setting up. Not everyone will like everything but there is plenty for everybody. At the end of the day – those are the best meals ever.