I have a piece in the new issue of Darling Magazine this month. I was asked to write a rosy-cheeked take on family dinners––their evolution from youth to adulthood, tradition, nostalgia, how the act of gathering around a table “transcends the act of dining as a means to an end.” I was feeling OK but not awesome about my rough draft when I submitted it in December, then: Christmas. We hosted my family at our new place. It snowed. I planned a few elaborate meals because, you know, food is love, and on the second night, before anyone took their second bite of potato tarragon galette, my brother and I were in a shouting match over my request that he not text at the dinner table. He got defensive. I called him an asshole. He got up and left. My mom cried, dad got quiet. Shaun tried to mediate.
It was ugly. But, it was real. More often than not, the meals we get to share with family and friends do not take on the convivial, alluring nature we see promoted across blogs and boutique media. It’s easy to set a beautifully-styled farm table and encourage meaningful, open-hearted dialogue and then CONVENIENTLY disregard that meaningful, open-hearted dialogue is, by nature of our human-ness, a fucking mess most of the time. The mess doesn’t sell.
There is nothing precious about our dinner table. It is, and has been, a mighty kickstand for the hardest and heartiest conversations in our lives. Sure, we’ve made many memorable, effortless, joy-filled moments around our table over the years, like that one night we stayed up late on a weeknight braiding challah and eating boozy french toast with a friend who kicked her dude to the curb. The time Cody and Emily stopped over before Corbyn and Caroline’s wedding with the kids and Shaun poured a bowl of tomato soup for Ev’s “Mr. Shark,” which he proceeded to splash all over his clean pajamas and Mr. Shark. And yet, for every uncomplicated and tender occasion we’ve experienced at the table with loved ones, there have been at least a dozen gritty, soul-obliterating instances that preceded it. Like New Years Eve of 2012 when Shaun and I ate buttered toast before The Lumineers show at the Ogden, contemplating if we’d even do 2013 together as a couple, or the night before our wedding that we ate bad pizza together on the floor, holding each other, laughing, crying, wishing we would have just eloped like we’d wanted all along.
Here’s my addendum to the story that was actually published: family dinner is where we do the work. And when I say family I mean our biological families, friend families or otherwise. And when I say table, I mean the couch or the barstools or the floor or the porch or the car. Wherever we eat, wherever we are forced to stop and reckon with the day or our lives or our relationships with one another in the presence of food: we go to work. We take something that is hard and make it easy, or take something that is easy and royally overcomplicate it. We wrestle, together, with what Anne Lamott calls “the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.” It’s the angst and heat and sticky stuff that comes with the work that builds real, long-lasting commitment and goodness in our lives. We need to get better at celebrating THAT.
I struck my match, she poured out her gasoline.
We burn now. All the time. ― Tarryn Fisher
Carrot Habanero Hot Sauce (aka Honeymoon Heat) (aka SUPER SPICY)
Adapted from my friends Corbyn and Caroline who discovered a love of carrot based hot sauces while honeymooning in Belize last year. This recipe makes about 6 quarts of hot sauce. Yes! You read that right 6 qts. I felt like there was really no sense in making a small batch when so many friends go through sriracha so quickly. You can easily halve, quarter, or further divide the recipe to make a smaller portion with the same result.
- 15 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 2 cups peeled, chopped carrot
- 4 medium sweet yellow onions, chopped
- 30 medium habanero chiles, stemmed
- 3 cups white vinegar
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- Juice of 6-8 limes
Roast the garlic in a skillet over medium heat, turning regularly until soft and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes.
In the same pot, combine the carrot, onion and habanero chiles with the vinegar, 3 cups water, salt and sugar. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the carrots are thoroughly tender, about 20 minutes. Blend until smooth. Thin with a lime juice and more water if the sauce seems too thick. Taste and add salt as preferred. Store in glass jars in the fridge.