A day after we’d shared, at Bacaro in Liverpool, what objectively was the finest meal my family had ever, and I think it’s not unreasonable to say, the finest we may ever enjoy together, my wife turned to the girls and I as we bid adieu to the home of The Beatles, Goodison Park and Liverpool Football Club and drove north towards England’s Lake District, and asked us this question:
“What’s your favorite thing to do together”, she went on as means of clarifying, “what family activity do you like the best?”
I was first to reply, nearly jumping out of my driver’s seat somewhere between Preston and Lancaster, to share with my wife and daughters my absolute favorite activity to do with them right now.*
Fighting against a natural human tendency to allow recency bias to influence judgement AND my own predilection for hyperbole while in a joyful spirit, my answer was that very meal at that very restaurant the day prior back in Liverpool England. Well, not that meal per se (although, truthfully, it WAS the idyllic dining experience to have shared with adventurous young eaters, in an environment both classically warm and excitedly modern) but any occasion in which we share a common culinary experience, with the four of us seated around a table or across from each other in a well-appointed booth; talking, laughing, sharing bites and ideas and memories and hopes and dreams — wild or otherwise — while exploring new tastes and textures, and finding ourselves engaged in eating as a pleasurable shared social endeavor more so than a means to nourish our bodies…and quickly at that.
The Slow Food movement has entranced me for many years but I nearly always find myself shoveling instead of tasting the food I’m eating. There’s someplace we or I need to go, dishes waiting to be washed, something — real or imaginary — pulling me away from the table. It’s easier to slow down, albeit marginally, when we’re away from home and the domestic responsibilities and distractions are removed from the equation, but it is still rare to sit and be still, to order food in dribs and drabs, to savor and share thoughts on the flavors passing through our lips before passing the dish with an earnest, “you have got to try this!”. I think the rarity of this food experience makes this particular family activity so precious and revered for me, because when it comes together, it is nothing short of magnificent every single time.
*Just as I, a chronically overweight person, hesitate at the start of any buffet to ensure that I am 100% absolutely N-O-T not in the first group to bum rush the food on offer and just as I let others of slimmer build have at the chafing dishes of hot hors d’oeuvres at press functions and at weddings, I cringe slightly at going on record here to say that ‘eating for pleasure’ is my favorite thing to do with my family. Of course I enjoy also cool weather hikes, gazing out upon spectacular vistas, the absurdly imaginative ‘yes, and’ improv play we’re fond of during road trips, and so much more at home and away, but the too rare yet always glorious times spent around a table together with curious new foods and unexpected flavor combinations are simply the greatest experiences…and I’m not going to feel even the slightest bit of fat-shame for saying so because this kind of food experience isn’t even remotely about gorging oneself but instead, are about shared discovery, conversation and adventure. And there’s nothing better to do together as a family than that.