Table company makes or breaks dinner experiences

As I woke up this morning and noticed the frost etched on my window, I was reminded that it is winter once again. However, it is not until I walk outside and felt the arctic chill of the strong wind that I remember that I am back in Oswego. The horizontal snow, blowing in every direction, though it feels like it’s always at me, is something I have only experienced here at school.

I am not one of the homesick, can’t-wait-to-go-back-home kind of kids. I like being home, but I love being here. However, there is one homely charm that is always lacking: the food. As my friends and I line up single file in the dining hall, waiting to be served the entree of the day, thoughts of my family and I sitting around the table, passing the communal dish which we have all helped cook run rampant through my mind. Food has always been something that brought people together and cooking and preparing the dish was no different. Though my mother would often be the one in charge, we often made it together, or if she was running late or something came up, I would take the lead.

I grab my bright yellow tray and head to the line. Today’s dinner of London broil less-than-eagerly awaits me. Fortunately, the cheese platter looks fairly fresh, so I help myself to the selection. I ask the attendant in charge of the steak for a couple of pieces and he places the slices upon my plate. Sometimes the steak is actually cooked to my liking, a deliciously pink medium-rare. Unfortunately, this is not one of those days. The gray meat stares back at me, almost daring me to eat it. Hopefully the demi glace sauce will cover it up.

The night before I returned to school, my mother prepared me a special dinner of porterhouse steak and garlic mashed potatoes; my favorite. Like always, the bone-in steak was cooked perfectly and the potatoes perfectly prepared.

"Eat up," my mom said; "this is the last good steak you’ll have for a while."

After grabbing a couple of beverages from the drink machine, I take my seat with my friends. There are probably six or seven of us there, many of us staring at the same London broil, asking ourselves why we dared to conquer this piece of meat. A couple of us were smart enough to opt for something else, like pizza or cereal. Damn, I should have had that instead.

The conversation begins to flow. Horror stories of difficult classes, hilarious tales from the weekend before, rants about that one girl from that one class who is pretty cute, well, sorta cute, but still cute. I laugh and take it all in, telling my own stories that I found hilarious and I hope my friends will too.

"Want to go get dessert?" I am asked.

I look down. My plate is empty. How did I do that? The gray lifeless piece of meat has magically disappeared into my stomach. In between laughs and stories, I must have eaten it.

"Sure, let’s go," I respond.

I realize that this is no different from eating back home. Sure, the food was better at home, but eating a meal is not about the food alone, it is about the company. The conversation, the laughs, the cries, the smiles. This is what eating a meal means to me. While I certainly do appreciate the finer foods and delicacies, I would not want to eat them alone. Even with this lackluster food, I have had a great dinner. Though we live busy lives and have different class schedules, we find the time to come together to share and experience something so comforting. We put our distractions and troubles aside, if even for an hour or so. I look around and notice that everybody else is smiling too. Suddenly, the steak didn’t seem so tough after all.