When Jazzman was a high school senior he and his friends used to gather at our house every Thursday evening to cook and eat a meal together. Preparing and sharing food was (and is) an important bonding experience for them, and it’s something Jazzman often suggests to us as a family activity. When he spent more time at home, he and his friends would often feel inspired to throw something together in the middle of the night (it helps that we have a 24-hour grocery in our small town), and I can tell you that’s it’s a strange experience to rouse from sleep at, say, 3 a.m. and smell something like onions cooking in olive oil. It takes a while to place the strange but delicious sensation of good food aromas when you expect the whole world to be still.
Before this pattern was firmly established, I remember waking up one night (again, around 3 a.m.) to the sound of adolescent male voices singing Christmas carols in our snowy backyard. When I threw open the sash to admonish them to respect our sleeping neighbors, I found them all gathered around the charcoal grill, where they where cooking sausage. Jazzman came in and admonished me to consider that fact that many parents of teenagers were probably worrying that night about whether their children were out somewhere abusing drugs and alcohol, while he and his friends were right there at home, and I was giving them heck for … cooking meat?
He always did have a way of cutting right to the heart of things, especially if he could make the grownups involved feel foolish. (Although I would still argue that our neighbors deserved some consideration.)
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about group cookings thanks to a couple of things including the arrival of our house last night of nine 20-something young men who brought with them a large amount of food including peppers, onions, sausages, hamburgers, etc., which they proceeded to prepare and consume together. Jazzman is the one in the middle, the guy in the plaid shirt. The one who is nearly out of the picture at the left is the guest of honor; he’s been living with Jazzman since their junior year in college, but now he’s transferring to law school in another city to be with his sweetie, from whom he was separated this past year when she went off to a different grad school. The one in the front with the glasses will also be a lawyer in two more years; the one to the right with his back to the camera is a talented painter. They are all, each in his own way, in that exciting place where they’re well into becoming who they will be and yet in another way just beginning. so that life still seems full of all sorts of possibilities yet to be realized.
And me at middle age? Well, the same. Isn’t that amazing?