As nightfall erases a lingering… red… summer… sunset on the lake shore, I —lounging in a lawn chair, the dark fruity notes of a final glass of Sangria tickling my tongue— take the first puff of a well-rolled, moist cigar and smile knowingly at the still-glowing embers of a feast-giving fire. Glowing too are the embers of satiated feasters fueled with the knowledge of a moment seized… devoured…savored…
For the past several years, our extended family has gathered in late July for a week on Lake Table Rock near Branson, Missouri. Among the many activities of the week, feasting —and feast-making—are my priority. This year we embarked upon paella and sangria.
In an unusual turn, the weather —normally sweltering and oppressive—was cool and delightful: the type of weather that begs for outdoor cooking and celebration. This made for a spirited Convivial Boar —and a feast prepared with spirit is like no other. Embracing the moment, we moved the feast and feast-making outside by the lake.
Family members began trickling out nearly as soon as the first flames flickered from the grill. Lawn chairs were erected and camp benches moved creating the feel of an amphitheater around the grill. Feasters were greeted with sangria (a special one for younger feasters to be discussed in a later post) and slices of pineapple and kiwi. As jazzy tunes filled the air (from my Father’s Day gift, a bluetooth speaker), Charlie, my sous feast-maker of the day, and I orchestrated a paella as the audience of feasters exclaimed amazement and joy with the addition of each new ingredient —working themselves into quite a frenzy before it was complete.
The anticipation was palatable as I placed a cloth towel over the paella and set it on a rack well above the fire to let it rest before serving. Sangrias refreshed and paella rested, the feasters crowded the grill for the unveiling, as though we had not watched every step of its creation. Then, it appeared again, like a dear old friend after an absence. With a pause for photographs and exclamations, we served the paella straight from the pan.
Relaxed, joyous conversation, interrupted often by belly-laughter, filled the evening. A steady wave of feasters re-visited the pan clamoring, “I want more of that crusty rice part.” Though they didn’t know it, I took those requests as high praise (We will learn why in a later post). I also hold dear the words of my young niece, “that was the best pie-lay-la I ever had” —perhaps, the most sincere words ever uttered.
As the evening faded and feasters departed, an urge persisted to extend the moment, make it last longer —for we had shared a special moment of feast and didn’t want it to end. But as with all moments —good and bad—it was overcome by the next. Only not all moments are stamped in our memories like the moment of a feast.
Over the next few posts, we will delve into the history of paella along with the ingredients and techniques used in making paella, but remember our purpose is not replication. Rather, my friend, we are on a more fulfilling quest to understand feasting and feast-making.
Savor the moment of feast, my friend.