I was sorting through a stack of old photos when a picture of my father reminded me of the time I decided to surprise him at work.
“How about lunch?” I ask “It’ll have to be quick I have an appointment later.” he replies. This was impromptu; I was happy with what I could get. As we go down the elevator, he asks if his local lunch spot is okay.
I follow his lead as we cross the street to enter a nondescript coffee shop bustling with the lunch crowd. He motions to the counter where two adjacent seats are available. The waitress places water and menus in front of us, and exchanges hellos with my father. “Are you having your usual, grilled Swiss? He smiles and says “yes.” “I’ll have the same,” I second, not wanting to bother with the menu.
A few minutes later, our sandwiches are in front of us. I pick mine up with my fingers, as I’ve grown accustom to doing. He, on the other hand, picks up his knife and fork. First he takes a little mustard and puts it on the side of the plate and then slices off a small piece of pickle. He then places them both on a part of the sandwich that he has just cut, then delicately puts it into his mouth and savors the flavors. As I observe him, I realize that he is having a meal that is as wonderful to eat as it is to watch.
I wipe my greasy hands on my napkin and look down at my plate. I haven’t even taken the time to taste what is in my mouth. Watching my father eat his grill cheese sandwich had given me more enjoyment than eating it my own. Never being one to not try something that looks good, I pick up my knife and place a little mustard on my plate, copying everything he has just done. I taste what I have just put into my mouth, the flavors merge and contrast each other with every bite—I am delighted. We continue our conversation, and I notice I sit a little straighter as though I am in a fine restaurant, fully deserving the pleasure I am experiencing.
I understood, at that moment, one of the elements needed to make a great meal: It is the desire for it to be good.
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