I opened the door that evening, to make my daily schlep to the mail box, to get my daily dose of coupon flyers and junk, and there was a thunk at my feet. Looking down, there was a small cardboard box lying on the threshold. The wrapping tape said “Food Network” and it weirded me out. I was not expecting any packages, and I could not remember having ordered anything from the Food Network. Especially small kitchenwares, which is what the mystery package turned out to be.
I brought it inside and turned it over to read the packing slip. Aha, mystery solved! No, I hadn’t ordered something while sleep walking or after a couple of gin and tonics. It was from my Ma and Da, and they sent me a salt dish for my dining table. Just what I needed, and a nice surprise.
Later in the week I arrived home in no mood to cook. Tired and ragged out, with the walls closing in just a bit, I made a spot decision to go on a picnic at my favorite local lake. So I grabbed my cooler and backpack, filled them up with bread, olives, cheese, pickles, and threw in a jar of salt and my pepper grinder. A bottle of olive oil topped it up, and off I went.
Good on me for finding the perfect spot to conduct my noshing adventures. It was at a picnic table situated under a tree and in just enough shade for me to relax and enjoy the setting sun. A gentle breeze and, strangely for a Baltimore summer, almost no humidity, meant a most pleasant evening to dine outside.
While sitting there, chewing slowly and ruminating like an upright cow, I began to feel dizzy and weak. At first, I thought I was coming down with something. The working of my jaws slowed even further, my breathing loud and languid in my ears. I swallowed. I became hyperaware of the birdsongs among the trees, the shouts and laughter of the extended family picnicking across the way. I heard the giggles of children, the wind in the grass, stirring the leaves over my head.
Leaning back and closing my eyes, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. The tensions of the day truly melted away. Realizing I was not going to be sick, I resumed chewing. The savory bite of the salt and the unctuous embrace of olive oil grabbed my tongue and lips, each working of the jaw a deeper exploration of flavor. Breathing deep into my belly created a deeper sense of comfort. And the laughter and voices I heard were that of my loved ones, sitting around the table with me.
We sat there at the table, laughing and joking and reveling in the joy of each other’s presence. I smiled, dipped my bread into the oil, and we shared salt and bread on a lovely summer evening.
Dedicated to the roots of my tree, those of this world and those who have gone on to the next. May love find you, whichever world you grace with your presence.