• Sahar Abdulaziz

A Recipe To Live By

I'm sitting at my table, with my tried and true recipes neatly stacked in a folder. Next to this pile, my list of what still needs purchasing, what has been bought, and my way too limited inventory of ingredients I already have in the pantry, although I seriously suspect I had better check again.

I repeat this ritual each time I am hosting a dinner for my family. Carefully I sift through a culmination of years worth of detailed notes, grease-stained sheets and reliable recipes. The plan is simple. My job as hostess is to make sure that whatever I decide on preparing will be the dinner my family will enjoy, with the plethora of tastes they recall, in the manner they anticipate, and of course, prepared with love. And for those in my ever-growing clan unable to make it here, I secretly bask, content in the knowledge that many have already summoned my recipes. In a way, a bit of me will still be there with them, around their table, and by extension feeding and nourishing other loved souls.

So far I have traipsed around my house for days, moving this over here, placing that over there, and mostly getting the place spiffed up. By the way, as a service announcement of sorts, I just thought I should mention, -Don’t ever watch anything on television that concerns home improvement. I mean it. During the holidays [whenever and whatever you celebrate] is the worst time of year to watch any show on TV depicting home décor – I swear, in thirty minutes or less they'll have you dissatisfied with what and where you live. Wishing your house looked more like a magazine cover than, let’s say--- the wildly eclectic collection of well-worn chairs, family heirlooms [okay- fine, -hand-me-downs] and artistically yet repurposed, but semi-pleasantly creative pieces scattered throughout the home -like me, for example.

So, my advice is this, just walk away. Run if you must.

Turn off the boob tube.

Pretend the twelve year-old sofa that sinks in the middle is a fashion statement, and keep it moving. Ignore the scratches and man-child-made grooves gracing the tabletop, or the slight chip in the vase you’ve had forever. Nobody will notice this but you, and perhaps that one family member who probably should have been an undercover Marvel Agent, but even they won’t care.

Not today. Not ever.

Instead, pull out that box of cherished memorabilia. You know the one. Filled with your unique collection of treasured items, perhaps from your own childhood or that of your children. Maybe now even your grandchildren, past students, co-workers or other family members or friends. These are the designer items that hold the most meaning, the one's money can't buy.

The delicate child’s hand on a paper plate splayed to imitate turkey wings or the homemade frames that contain photos of smiling family members now scattered and living their lives around the globe. Postcards from far away and long ago. I know I will make sure the delicate rose laid bowl previously owned and used by the hands of my great-great grandmother will share our space, and although now kept prominently protected behind a glass door; it is only to save this irreplaceable keepsake from tiny inquisitive hands.

My table will be set with the strangest miss-matched combination of gorgeous serving trays, bowls and platters, while my walls continue to boast the most magnificent and eclectic photographs taken by my talented son and brother. Places and people they have seen and been. Memories they generously share with me.

On my serving table, a wide variety of delicious pies and cakes will be displayed from a marvelous collection of exquisite cake stands, while on my handmade hope chest sits my lovely daughter-made memory box. Mixing bowls, a delicate teapot, teacups from around the world, canisters, -my house is sprinkled with an amazing collection of love, all gifted to me over the years from various family members and friends. They each tell a story of their own, with memories embedded in their existence, with love glowing from their touch.

People who have come to visit often graciously share with me how my house radiates welcoming warmth. I just pray that's not code for dumpy, but even so, -does it matter? In the end, with everything that's going on in this battered world, is it so darn important if throw pillows perfectly match the hue in the sofa or napkins on awaiting plates remain folded like swans? Does the silverware really need to make a statement? Or can a fork be, well? -A fork? And although everyone wants their home to look lovely for guests, will the world end if chairs surrounding the table are not robed in matching fabrics, bows or glitter?

I think not, but hey- to be fair, that could just be me. Remember, I’m the woman whose serving table was actually an old clothes dresser- but -it was my wonderful great Auntie's dresser, the Auntie I loved, adored, and miss deeply.

-And in my old outdated kitchen, when I wash dishes in the sink, I stand under the warm glow of the light fixture my dad put up for me.

-When I walk through my house, the house I have raised six children in, married to the best man on the planet, each step is a gentle reminder that these are the floors my husband and son laid, -each plank, each piece, each measurement, until the job was perfectly done. They worked hard through the day and the night, and their payment? Me coming down the stairs and watching my face light up.

So no, my house will not win any decorating awards. It will most likely never boast pristine granite countertops or marble floors, and I can assure you -the kitchen that dropped out of the early 80s will probably be around longer than me. But it is a home. The walls breathe. The air is contagious as it draws the family I love with every ounce of my being into her protective embrace, and nurses the souls who grace her premises with love and welcome. And for this, I am eternally grateful.

I bid you all a safe travel to wherever your hearts take you.

I pray your life overflows with love, your soul's fill with the blessing of shared meals, and the remembrance that there are way too many, with way less, wishing they owned an old sofa that sinks in the middle.


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