Guest post by Ashley Rodriguez, Not Without Salt
For the past eight years my calendar has been booked every other Wednesday. I have a standing date with the same women week after week. In that time we’ve all changed, our lives have changed—we’ve grown, experienced love, loss, and pain—and through it all we’ve walked hand in hand.
On this particular Wednesday we wanted to soak up the last bit of that late summer sun and catch that cool early fall breeze. The light drips gold off the towering trees. We let the sound of the soft breeze rippling through the leaves provide the soundtrack, nearby plum branches and the scent of ripe tomatoes on the vine set the scene and the fire becomes our kitchen.
Our meals are often potluck. Each of us bring a few random bits from our fridge to contribute and each time it feels like a feast. But on this occasion I wanted to celebrate these women and honor them by cooking for them.
While tending the fire close by, I listened to them talk about their lives; the ups and downs and the major highlights that happened during the two weeks since we last got together. They filled their wine glasses and nibbled on a bit of fire-warmed Camembert and fresh Thompson grapes.
I grilled cabbage and thick slices of craggy bread while the second glass of wine was poured and by the third the mussels with garden tomatoes, white beans, and basil was on the table.
The fire continued to burn as the sun receded and the lanterns lit our table. As the wind picked up a bit of that early fall chill, rather than go inside we stoked up the fire and wrapped ourselves in blankets.
Our simple backyard gathering creates an experience so different than our meals in the dining room. In its rustic elegance it feels special and yet delightfully simple. The unpredictability of a fire-cooked meal reminds us to be present and to forgo expectation and appreciate what is right in front of us.
We immerse ourselves in the season as we watch the light change and feel the temperature drop. We are reminded of the changing seasons and that subtle lesson to revel in each as it presents itself.
By the time dessert is served we forgo any formality and share the plate, each dipping our fork into the pleasantly tart plum crisp made from the plums that hang right above our heads. The embers are still warm as we embrace and make plans for the Wednesday after next.
Photos courtesy of Ashley Rodriguez