When I was in my 20s, trying to figure out who I was and where I was going, my friends and I would explore ourselves, each other and the world over food. Going out for lunch, dinner, appys and drinks and frequent sushi rolls, we fed our bellies and our minds and burned it all off chugging along toward maturity and self-actualization.
When I was in my 30s my husband and I discovered ourselves, as a couple and as individuals, over food. Chinese soups, Japanese salads, Thai dumplings, Indian nan and even the experimental moose burger were all fair game. I was daring and bold, willing to venture into unchartered epicurian territory with the plushness of new love as my safety net.
Now in my 40s, in a place where I don't quite have it all figured out but have gotten pretty good at pretenting for the sake of my children, I continue to nurture my soul at table. Unlike some cultures that offer up food as the antidote to whatever ails you, my gatherings with girlfriends are ways for us to come together and bond, share, cry, vent, laugh and comiserate. Warm mugs of coffee, bowls of sweet, seasonal fruits and steaming breads with creamy butter melting create the homey backdrops for our meetings, infusing them with all the comforting elements we remember from our mothers' kitchens. Slipping into mornings like these is, while all too infrequent, one of the bright spots of my life now. Great friends are the family we can choose, and are as essential to my soul as food is to my body.
Who knows what lies ahead for any of us? We have reached a place in our lives where the challenges are different from anything we have ever known: friends with cancer; aging parents; teenage children; troubled marriages; deaths of family members. As young as we still feel, we find ourselves facing problems that once only plagued our elders. I don't know if I have the strength it will take to weather any of it gracefully. But there's no question in my mind that I will be able to get through it all with these friends by my side.
These women bring a beauty to my life, and a richness to its tapestry, that is immeasurable. My soul is nourished, and I am truly thankful.