Our first stop last week was Vancouver. The drive was incredible. Clear blue skies were the backdrop to pristine white snow that had fallen just days before. The sun shone with radiance that made the weary fall into deep sleep - which is exactly what I did for about 3 hours as we navigated our second mountain pass. (This was the first of several "great sleeps" that God granted me on this trip. To a mom of two high-octane little boys, this is a blessing that I thank the Almighty for).
In Vancouver, we stayed with my aunt and uncle. They are wonderful hosts and fed us like kings. Their home is beautifully kept - white carpets, leather furniture, interesting artwork - even a special room, which my eldest dubbed "the Look-Out Room", since it affords a spectacular view of Grouse Mountain. Both my aunt and uncle enjoy gourmet food, and we were treated to delicacies such as grape leaves, filo-wrapped veal, hummus, etc. Many of these were new and unusual for my boys.
The last evening we were visiting there, my aunt invited my cousin and her husband to dinner. The menu included scalloped potatoes (actually, I think they were potatoes au gratin, but to my husband they're scalloped) with ham and a chicken dish. It was a delightful meal, complete with pleasant conversation and music befitting the city-lights sparkling in the distance.
The next day we left Vancouver for another cousin's home in Abbotsford. Again, we had a fantastic visit. My cousin has 5 children (plus another on the way from Liberia). Her house is in the country and is like stepping into a basket of warm buns - lots of love, lots of laughs and lots of food.
Dinner at their place was just like "down-home". She had cooked a ham, complete with scalloped potatoes, salad, fresh buns and concord grape juice - made with the grapes in their backyard. We ate with 11 people around a huge oak table. There was lots of "please pass me..." and conversation that ranged from IT to high school soccer practice. Afterwards we sat around the living room and talked until the wee hours of the morning.
Upon reflection, I was struck by how both my aunt and my cousin gave us a wonderful gift. And although they both cooked the same food on paper, their meals were both served in such a unique way - that they were individual offerings of love. As such, we enjoyed them both tremendously and grew in understanding: it's generally not as much about the food, as it is about the company. This is a great reminder for me to "be myself" and just relax about the menu when company comes. Generally, the food will be edible, and the company? If it's without pretense or pride, it should be most enjoyable and fulfilling.