The art of dining has been lost in our new and very busy world but it doesn’t have to be. Our homes are the perfect stage to set, surrounded by all the things we love. Let’s be creative and recapture moments to remember, right in our own homes.
At HOME Dining
Our world is so diverse now, that we could transport ourselves anywhere we want to be, simply by changing our surroundings, right there in our very own homes. Décor, clothing, music, even the food we cook and how we set the stage to serve it.
The World At Our Table
As a woman in my sixties, I could write many books about the places I have been, as I am sure you could as well. The food and cultures I have immersed myself in, even some of the obscure things I have done, have all enhanced my dining experience.
Once an empty nester, I up and moved to another country. My last child (of four) was entering college and as a single mom all those years, I was ready for ‘me’!
I didn’t speak one word of the language and knew very little about the culture. But in my three years living in Brazil I learned to speak Portuguese and I came to appreciate the importance of gathering to share a meal.
As a young woman, longggggg before I had children, I had an intense fascination with the Asian culture. While living in Washington DC, I signed myself up for language classes at the Japan American Society and began to study not only the language, but everything I could get my hands on about the culture: Novels, cookbooks, traditions, and history.
Food was the one place, I discovered, that an entire culture expresses itself best and most proudly. Living in DC, back in the 70’s helped. There were many refined Japanese restaurants at that time. Not just sushi restaurants owned by non-Japanese. I dined out and brought the flavors back to my own kitchen to learn.
Life Is Our Best Teacher
Years later, low and behold, my first two sons were born of an Asian father, but that is a story for another time… maybe.
I learned to cook Japanese, Korean, and Chinese food both by association and instruction. Japanese was the one culture of the three that really attracted my interest.
There was a saying in Japanese that stuck with me: “Nothing in nature is perfect, therefore imperfection is, in fact, perfect.” I knew my imperfect attempts on creating the food in my kitchen would be, perfect.
Symmetry, balance, clashing of colors were all things I had to relearn in the visual department from the Japanese perspective. Sound was also something new to me as well.
Sound was said to influence the mood, induce peace, or remove it, and so the study of Japanese tea ceremony was a most fascinating place to be introduced to these points of view.
Learn From Our Surroundings
The western eye, and sense of sound was something I suppose I never paid much attention to until I learned to see it through a far eastern perspective. We seem to have a need for symmetry, balance, consistency.
And yet, as I grew to appreciate the exact opposite in Japanese, I found myself also coming to appreciate my own culture for the first time. They were strikingly different, and I found, I liked that.
I am, by nature, a very visual person, and my senses are, (even at my age) keenly sensitive. Using my home and all the experiences of my life as the canvas to create the visual stories I wish to tell, is a satisfying passion I would wish on anyone!
So, how does all of this apply to my passion for cooking and dining?
Whisk and Dine is what I named my little world here for several reasons. While as westerners, we know a Whisk as a metal (or sometimes plastic), tool used to mix food.
The Japanese whisk I encountered most intrigued me. The bamboo, short bristle, hand brush/whisk that was used to mix the green tea paste for, and in the tea ceremony.
Its sound played an important role in creating the mood. The soft yet firm bristles whisking against the porcelain bowl are intended to delight the senses, calm the mind, and refresh the spirit.
This quiet moment of waiting had an almost trance like affect. It reminded me of how busy life can be, and that a simple moment of being still to listen to small repetitious sounds are something I am rarely still, long enough to hear.
Since then, I have embraced the Whisk in my kitchen, very differently. When I hear the metal swish, against the metal bowl, with liquid between the two, creating something that will be transformed into a memorable dining experience; the sound now brings me calm and a smile.
In the ‘dining’ of tea ceremony, it was not really about the tea, or even what may have been served to eat along with the tea. It was about the human exchange. What the participants brought to the experience of themselves.
An expression as much as a word. The items thoughtfully placed on the table, by the preparer, items that spoke in and of themselves, of a story.
Do we know how to dine like this? I fear we are losing the art of human exchange. Texts and emojis replace facial exchanges and words. The art of conversation pieces being placed on the dining table are nearly all but gone, because there IS no longer a table we prepare to dine. We eat out, we eat in front of the television, we eat on the run.
The World On My Plate
Yes. The art of the table, the importance of storytelling, the preparation to share a moment as well as a meal is something I want. Don’t you?
Six years into this exciting world of ‘Food Blogging’ I decided I wanted something tangible to share a few of my recipes and stories. I wanted a book. Nothing elaborate, or ‘teachie‘ but rather something to hold in the hand, turn pages, read as you will.
Greeting cards use to feel like that, to me. Now we simply text a message and be done with it. Can you believe I have the collection of greeting cards sent to my grandmother? Post marked 1940’s, many of them.
The World On My Plate became my first little greeting card I wanted to give to you. If you enjoy it, perhaps I will make another one for you.
Together, let’s recapture days gone by, and find new ways to create the art of dining back in our lives, in our homes, along with all our favorite things. xoxo