When Jared and I were first dating we reflected on the year’s highlights and landed (surprisingly!) on all of our favourite meals! It’s since become a tradition each New Year, and this year we’ve been blessed enough to travel and eat at some of our new and old favorite spots and had some really special meals to pick from. There are some that will always sit at the top of our list for their values in sourcing well, growing organically, and creating clean and innovative food – those values will win us over every time with plates like nose to tail beef taco salads in the garden Mission Heirloom in Berkeley, and paleo fish tacos and blondies in the Texas sunshine at Picnic Austin. In 2016 we found some new favorites too while we sipped smoothies and cappuccinos at The Butchers Daughter in Venice, perused the aisles of our new love Erewhon Market, and ordered most things on the menu at Deliciously Ella’s new Mae Deli in London.
But this year as I looked over the year’s meals, the ones that really stuck in my mind and heart were not restaurant meals but the ones where our people were all round the table with us for slow meals, enjoying happy home cooked food, and being together. The ones where we sipped and laughed with our closest friends and family and shared food and life. Those win and here are my 2016 favourites, with the things we learned.
A summer table with family
In July my mum’s side of the family gathered for reunion weekend in my parents’ 400 year old stone cottage. We walked and talked, swam, caught up and then for dinner pieced tables and benches together and crammed 25 of us into a tiny kitchen, where we tucked into homemade lasagne and champagne, followed by slices of a big chocolate cake studded with little flags in to celebrate all the accomplishments, birthdays, and anniversaries of the year. Full of pasta and happiness, we finished the night with glasses of whisky and a round robin table tennis game in the dark outside! (which was won by my champ husband!)
A funeral dessert spread
It might be strange for a funeral to top the charts, but in September we said goodbye to by my 96 year old grandmother and my dad’s side of the family all joined together for a celebratory meal after the funeral. It was a sombre rainy day, but the whole family was gathered together to celebrate and remember her life by each making one of her famed and favorite desserts (ladened with cream, alcohol, and sugar!) and enjoyed being together. Seeing the fruit of her life as four generations of family came together from the world over in a tiny church hall was unforgettable. And remembering moments over the years as we tucked into chocolate sherry flan, ginger cream, and truffles beat any menu a chef could put together.
First foods with our baby boy
Then in May, Jared and I shared our first ever breakfast with Clayton! Seeing him sitting at the kitchen island tasting sweet potatoes for the first time sitting next to his dad is a picture that will stick in my mind for ever. In the 6 months since, his exploration of food has been one of the most exciting journeys of the year, it’s also taught be a lot as I’ve thought from ground zero about how to feed a little body, it’s changed my thoughts on what we feed ourselves and how we build our bodies too – and it’s been fun to have so many of you join us over on @thewholefoodbaby
A Thanksgiving feast with English family, old friends and new babes
Living in a country that’s not my ‘own’ and raising a son who is half a different nationality from my own can be a strange phenomena that I didn’t anticipate. The traditions I’ve come to love living here, inherently have a different significance in his life than they will ever have in mine. This thanksgiving I found myself caring more than I would have guessed that he got to spend it with Americans and see the full wonder of the holiday as it’s been for generations. A brave friend opened up her her home days after the emergency delivery of her son and we spent the day with some of our dearest friends along with my family too, cooking up a combination of midwest classics and ‘cleaned up’ favorites, as we all shared the moments we were thankful for around the table – an American-ism I adore.
The monthly ‘Blunch’ table
Sometimes it’s breakfast, sometimes lunch, sometimes an in between brunch so the text thread with my favroutie girls is titled ‘Ladies who Blunch’ and every few weeks we get together with babies and enjoy usually some spread breakfast hash, aioli and eggs and a pot of coffee. When I post the leftovers and say I’ve had lunch with my girls – that’s what the morning was. It’s a moment in the fast pace of the world where we all breathe out and share real life, the laughter, tears, the journey of motherhood, and everything it brings! There’s just something about gathering around food, that makes life rich.
What we learned at the table this year.
I’d rather eat simple slow food with great company, than michelin starred delicacies alone.
Motherhood this year has taught me to slow down, and a lot of that comes from the rhythm of life and food. No matter how hectic and full life gets, we make a routine of stopping for breakfast together in the morning. Grab and go meals and bars might save time in the moment, but they don’t enrich life. They’re a robbery of a need greater than calories.
Eating is about so much more than caloric fue, there’s a soul sustenance from the pause and connection of eating with people.
And a life-giving peace that comes from making a good simple meal and taking the time to breathe as you do it. The more I dig into food and health, the more we learn about food production, the more I’m convinced that the universal answer, is
simple food, sourced locally, eaten seasonally, and home prepared.
I believe more in going on a journey than setting hard and fast resolutions
and this year we’ll continue the journey of investing in food, slowing down for meals, getting closer to the source with what we buy, and learning to plan well to build it into a full life. We’re going to plant our first garden and start a few new routines like making our own sourdough bread, and moving to homemade pasta.
I can’t wait to join you for another year of our whole food diary.