November 17, 2011

Are you too busy?

Someone once referred to my family as being like the mafia; we are very close and protective of each other.  I credit my parents raising me and my siblings with the understanding of the importance of family.  This understanding is continued to be passed onto my niece and nephews.  I am crazy about my  family, they are the most important people in my life. We disagree and fight at times, often we have very busy schedules that may not allow each other to visit as often as we would like, but when it comes down to it we would be there for one another in an instant if we needed.

You cannot turn on the computer or TV without hearing something bad the world around us. Hearing friends say "I am too busy for..." or "I wish I would have..." makes me really start questioning where is this all breaking down. We often do not realize we should have spent time together until we are usually at someone's funeral.  Then we want all the time back with a person and it is too late.   I am guilty of looking at my smartphone or texting while I am with someone, but recently I have tried to be more conscious not to do it. I want to be present in the conversations and interactions with people.  I love to cook in my kitchen and often invite other to join me, unfortunately "I am busy"  has been the RSVP.

You can tell by my blog I am a fan of Chef John Besh; this article appeared on the Huffington Post Kitchen Daily today & I wanted to share it.  

Think about when it was that you and your family sat down and enjoyed a meal and conversation without the TV on, texting or phones ringing.  If you can't remember it is time for a change.,b=facebook

When I think back through my seemingly idyllic childhood, and if forced to actually ponder thoughts like, "What were not only the grandest memories but rather the deepest memories," food would certainly have been involved. Not surprisingly so as this, I'm quite sure, would be a standard response from anyone who hailed south Louisiana as their home.

Food meant home. Sure we went out to eat, but that was special, an occasion which certainly in turn meant Sunday clothes and a fancy, Commander's Palace type of restaurant. Home was the center of our universe and the family table would surely have been its epicenter. The food at the table told us who we were and where we came from, southern and southern Louisianian at that.

Our food taught us about the seasons (only crawfish were found on the table during the spring) that glossy food periodicals didn't teach us that -- it was inherent with that time and place. We traveled the world, learning of our families' travels through the Air Force by the foods we ate.

From the table we actually communicated (yes there was no texting, no instant messages, Facebook or even a rudimentary email) -- all we had was each other that we visited with and we were forced to use and develope our verbal skills just as much as our palettes matured and developed.

We were taught table manners and various other areas of etiquette, which serve me well to this day. By the sound of it, measured against contemporary standards, one might think that I came from from am uppity lot and I can assure you that was not the case. The son of a disabled fighter pilot, we weren't living high on the hog, but our family table was rich! Through food and the focus that the family table brought, both certainly orchestrated by my parents, the lives of my five siblings and myself were shaped in so many wonderful ways.
 Fast forward a number of years and I find myself the father of four boys and husband to one wife. I have a slew of wonderful restaurants and very little time for those very meals that enlighten me to my calling to chefdom. "How did this happen?" I'd often ponder. Then one day I did the unthinkable and questioned my wife, Jenifer, about what she was feeding our children. To say she let me have it would have been an understatement -- she made it real clear that I'd go to the ends of the earth to find that special ingredient for our clients; however my family would have to fend for themselves.

This truly shook me to the point that I knew to remedy this problem would take a focused effort for me to purchase and stock the pantry using two decades of kitchen logic to manage the preparation of various menus for the family, just as I would in one of our professional kitchens. Menus that offer variety, sustainability, nutritional balance and ease of preparation, since there'd be no brigade of comis doing nearly all the grunt work of peeling, dicing and blanching as is standard in a commercial setting.
Instead I created My Family Table as a go-to guide for the home cook, removing all the mystique from cooking, in a way that will help, I do hope, to bring folks back into their kitchen -- not as a sport but as an act of love.

By a renewed focus on the Family Table we can make the world a better and tastier place, one dish at a time! We are at a very important time in our societies' history and much of what and how we as a people source, cook and eat will decide how we continue to evolve. Will food only be relegated to super fast takeout chains to be eaten out of a bag, by hand, by ourselves, on the run while sitting in a vehicle? Or will we begin to cook again? Will we stop viewing food as merely a competitive sport for TV or will we protect, preserve and defend our culture by cooking again? My Family Table is more than a fancy chef food book saying, "Hey look at me cooking at home"-- it is however a passionate plea for home cooking!

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