Reminiscing with a Side of Fries Please!!

They say food brings people together.  I am a firm believer of this philosophy.  After all, we plan much of our social lives around food and drink.  But no meal can compare to the ones shared with family or friends reminiscing over old times.  Yesterday was my lucky day as I got to have two such meals.  Lunch with a friend who I first remember meeting in 1983 and dinner with some former colleagues I used to work with nearly 20 years ago.
When I was younger I remember many dinner parties where my parents would sit around with visiting family or friends just talking about the past – remembering the way things were, or school days, or how this one was related to that one,  or “whatever happened to so & so?”.  I also distinctly remember leaving the room as I found the conversation boring.  What was the point in talking of the past I questioned?  As I got older, I became fascinated by all the people, places and things they talked about.  I particularly remember my father who, it seemed, never forgot anyone and could find a connection to everyone no matter where they were from.  He had a true gift for this.  The theory of six degrees of separation was probably more like three for him.  Over the years and many meals later, I have learned much about my family history from listening to my parents and family talk about their relatives and ancestors, and while I don’t know who many are and haven’t ever met them, I feel the connection to them.
My father was also very good at staying in touch with those he met throughout his life.  And I am still amazed at how many made an effort to stay in touch with him too.  To some extent he passed this on to me.  Life is busy and it is difficult as we get wrapped up in our daily rut, only staying in touch with those who are involved in our routines.  But I try to always remind myself of the efforts he made in writing letters and making phone calls regularly to those he cared about despite an extremely busy life.  Somewhere along the way I found myself doing the same with friends and family who reciprocate efforts to stay in contact with me though I will never be able to match the way he managed to remember everyone.
Now you’re thinking, what in the world does this have to do with a food blog.  Well food always seems to be at the center of such gatherings and reunions and one could argue that without food, they might not happen.  Through the wonders of modern technology it is so much easier to stay connected to people today.  Facebook has its pros and cons but at the end of the day it can be a wonderful way to stay in touch with people if used carefully and smartly.  It has allowed me to reconnect with family and friends in countries all over the planet.  Emails, texts, cell phones, skype – all make it so convenient for us and yet we are less connected to people today than my parents were thirty years ago.  But technology can actually be a wonderful way to reach people as proven by my day yesterday.
My lunch plans were impromptu; made only hours before via a post on Facebook.  My friend, who I don’t get to see very often, answered my post by texting me and we wound up at the Urban Table in Morristown for a fun lunch talking about how different it is to raise children today than the way we were raised.  No summer camps for us, we were left alone at home all summer to entertain ourselves without video games, cable TV, etc.  Over a fish burrito and a wagyu burger we contemplated on whether we are coddling our children and how we were always raised a part of the family and not the center of it.  We talked about our parents and how they struggled to raise us as new immigrants to this country and so many other things.  The food was good but it was far from our primary focus and yet it was what brought us there together. 
My dinner plans had been in the works for a few months – all via emails.  While I have stayed in touch with each person over the years and gotten together with them for dinner or drinks individually, it had been years (can’t remember how many) since we all had been in the same place at the same time.  We decided to meet at Esca in NYC.  It is a restaurant known for its seafood and co-owned by Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and David Pasternak.  I had not been there before but had passed it dozens of times on my way to the Lincoln Tunnel.  This is not a everyday meal kind of joint and comes with a hefty price tag so I recommend it for special occasions.  We were seated outside in their courtyard.  Upon entering the restaurant I was greeted by a surprisingly familiar face – another friend who it turns out is the current wine director at Esca.  It really is a small world and those who know me know that I bump into people I know everywhere.  I was shown to the table where my friends were seated and it felt as if no years had passed.  I immediately fell into nostalgia mode and we spent the next four hours eating, drinking and reminiscing.  And of course comparing who had more gray hair.  Luckily I had just had mine colored the day before.
 

Dinner at Esca was quite nice.  I ordered a Mahi Mahi entrée and we ordered vegetables for the table.  My friend helped us choose a wonderful Italian white wine – Keber Collio.  We laughed over how after so many years we looked different but still had the same idiosyncrasies.  Like N’s talent for asking questions about everything on the menu and wanting to always order what is not on it, making Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally look tame in comparison.  Our servers though did not flinch and indulged all the questions and were very helpful.  We picked up an old argument we have never resolved about whether or not men and women can be platonic friends (connection to the same movie completely coincidental).  Conversation drifted further and further back in time as the evening went along and I believe we had just about remembered everyone we possibly could –  thinking fondly of those who had passed on or suffered from illnesses, current antics of children we remember being born, marriages, divorces and so much more than this blog has room for.  It truly was a wonderful evening and I wished we had not waited so long to do this, but glad we had found the time to now. 
 As our meal came to an end, and while others ordered dessert and coffee, I opted to get a glass of Balvenie single malt Scotch to complete my evening.   I think because it reminded me of my father in that moment who loved Scotch, and had led by example to teach me the importance of staying connected to the people that matter in our lives.   Appropriate I think as we celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday.
So this weekend I encourage you to reach out to someone you have not talked to or seen in a while and make plans to share a meal so you can do some of your own reminiscing.  My next one is planned for June 30th and I am really looking forward to going down memory lane again.
Someone recently told me I was very lucky to be surrounded by a great family and so many wonderful friends and they were absolutely right.  I needed the reminder.
A very Happy Father’s Day to all the terrific dads out there and to mine who I know is with me always!  May you spend the day reminiscing with your loved ones!

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