This year

More dishes but less fuss means more time to re­lax and en­joy great com­pany

Sunday Tribune - - FOOD - ALI­SON RO­MAN The New York Times

I HAD al­ways main­tained that I’d be the kind of per­son who makes time for cook­ing, re­gard­less of how busy I be­came.

It is, af­ter all, my job, my hobby, my cre­ative out­let and how I con­nect with peo­ple.

Sev­eral weeks ago, one of my dear friends in­vited an­other close friend and me over for lunch. Her hus­band was out of town, and she had a 1-year-old to take care of, so my other friend and I of­fered to bake or make, bring in­gre­di­ents or shop – ba­si­cally cater the en­tire af­fair – as we were con­cerned about the bur­den of pre­par­ing a meal when you have a tod­dler learn­ing to walk.

She de­clined, as­sur­ing us that it re­ally “wasn’t a big deal”, and not to worry. We showed up to a spread that looked like it was, well, kind of a big deal. Blown away by how beau­ti­ful and thought­fully done every­thing looked, I felt guilty know­ing she had taken the time to treat us to such an in­cred­i­ble af­ter­noon when her ev­ery free minute is so valu­able. (She could have been nap­ping, maybe?)

Sens­ing this, she men­tioned that it had taken all of 15 min­utes to throw to­gether and that the se­cret to the im­pres­sive look was hav­ing sev­eral tiny bowls filled with things that didn’t re­quire cook­ing.

We spent the next few hours not in the kitchen but at the ta­ble, snack­ing and graz­ing, talk­ing and catch­ing up.

The whole af­ter­noon was truly novel to me, some­one who could not imag­ine “hav­ing it all” – as in, a de­li­cious, well-cho­sen, sat­is­fy­ing meal and the time to linger over it.

With un­fussy cen­tre­pieces and re­laxed, snacky sides and condi­ments, you’ll find your­self spend­ing less time in the kitchen and more time at the ta­ble. Life may not ac­tu­ally get less busy. But for a few glo­ri­ous hours, it can feel that way.

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