A simple lunch social in the new norm striving to be normal

After our first Pfizer vaccine shot, a Mexican friend, a Japanese friend and I enjoyed a dine-out last month.  Exuberant with that experience having gone through a year of pandemic restrictions and intermittent lockdowns, we decided to schedule meals together once a month, be it at a restaurant or here at home.  Today was our follow-up eating social. Having received both doses of the vaccine, we happily take the privilege of getting together, mindful, however, of continuing to follow safety guidelines when we go out.

Today was a most relaxing respite from my friends’ lab work and my remote work, a Saturday afternoon well spent in just leisurely enjoying spaghetti, salad, garlic bread, ice cream, cookies and a mound of sweet strawberries and grapes. The conversation was most delightful.  Some  catching up after minimal social meet-ups, and a little chat about work  And of course, food as usual emerged as the favored topic while eating.

Enticing fruits leftover from a simple lunch social (Photo by lpj)

I take special pride in my spaghetti, giving myself a little pat on the back.  Presumably, I’m getting to be a real spaghetti expert.  As I always say, the secret of good spaghetti is in the sauce.  The sauce has to be rich, thickly flowy and sharp with the natural sour of the tomato sauce, the mild meaty flavor of browned ground beef and the zest of half-cooked mushrooms. The mix stays on the stove at low heat for the right consistency.  That’s my simple concoction, not totally original, but with a more savory touch.  When someone requests for my recipe, that’s the “proof of the pudding”.  The Mexican friend did ask, but I didn’t give her the “pudding”.

My guests, Lili and Takahiro, were nicely surprised with strongly aromatic garlic bread that I brought out of the oven.  A delectable sight – sourdough slices thinly spread with butter and diced garlic before heated in the oven for half an hour in moderate temperature.  The slices turned out crunchy on the crusty sides but tender in the middle. The perfect match to the generously sauced spaghetti noodles.  Of course, the fresh salad mix drizzled with sweet vinaigrette was not just an attractive accoutrement on the table, but a necessary complement to the total gastronomic experience.  Simple yet absolutely delightful.

For dessert, Lili brought cookies and chocolate ice cream that blended though competingly with lush strawberries and plump grapes from Takahiro. As I’m writing this blog, I cannot help gaze at the enticing leftover fruits on the table (picture above), likely my dinner after a hefty pasta lunch.

There’s an interesting little story about the flowers in the picture.  In the middle of our chat, I mentioned that at a corner outside our front patio wall, my husband planted camellia that was never cut down by our homeowners association (homeowners’ policy states that we are not allowed to plant outside our townhomes).  Since then the camellia has grown bushy and bears lovely red flowers in the spring. Occasionally, I pick one or two for my small vase at home. Takahiro was curious and, in the middle of eating his spaghetti, decided to go down to check the plant.  He rushed back up as he excitedly remarked on how beautifully the plant is richly laden with blooms.  I asked him to go back down to pick a flower for my vase.  He obliged, and came back with a camellia bud just perfect for my short white vase. Impressed and made curious by my story and the red bud, Lili went to inspect the bush before leaving.  Both my guests stayed some minutes just gazing and admiring the gorgeous camellia outside my patio.  My husband (now deceased) would have been overjoyed that his plant has drawn much attention and admiration (maybe even from other homeowners, and just maybe that’s why the plant is still standing in that corner). A gift that vibrantly flowers every spring.  A wonderful sidelight and sidebar to my social narrative today.  A stunning highlight of my simple and delightful lunch social in this new norm.

For next month’s get-together, we plan to expand it to include a few more for a potluck for someone’s birthday.  Already I know what I want to make for that meal – my spectacular lasagna (biased, you might say).

I’m firmly hoping that the few other guests would have been fully vaccinated by then.  After all, we are still in the new norm striving to be normal.

Linda P. Jacob

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