“What’s for dinner,” he asked casually as we finished up our luncheon.
“What?” I managed to reply without extreme exasperation.
“Dinner? What are you planning?” all innocence displayed.
“I don’t know . . . *sigh* . . . I will just look into the cave of wonders and find something fantastic. We’ll have adventure for dinner. It will be fun.” I left it at that, with only the faintest breath of sarcasm.
As the dining hour approached I did, indeed, set out in search of something full of wonder and nutrition to lay upon the table as we gathered at day’s end. Hmmmmm . . . I scoured the fridge: quart of broth, assorted veggies, an abundance of eggs, a bit of mayo (my own spicy concoction), sour cream . . . hmmmmm. Minneolas rolled around the counter begging to be noticed in their vibrant orange-y peels. Onward to the pantry: a large golden portion of couscous shone brightly amongst the labor-intensive beans and such – no time for soaking and boiling and waiting – couscous it is, then!
I bundled the bits and pieces of produce and larder stock onto the counter like an ancient mosaic artist ready to begin to craft a gift from the broken pieces and fragments. I rifled around in my spice cupboard pulling out cumin and coriander, garlic and garam masala. I plundered the citrus basket for a lime or two – nearly too far gone, but still fragrant and pliable. I poured and portioned, stirred and seasoned, filling the house with the earthy fragrance of a spice road caravanserai – those roadside inns of olden days inviting men to dismount camels, water and feed the beasts, then turn into the inn to find nourishment and rest for himself at day’s end. A fitting place to serve a meal wrought from my culinary cave of wonders.
The cobalt-patterned bowls began filling with jewel-toned veggies and creamy sauces for drizzling. The fragrant couscous soaked up the lime- and garlic-laced broth. The abundance of eggs from our diligent hens became half-moons hard-cooked and filled with fluffed and spiced yolk creams. A bit of Worcestershire, a hint of ginger, a zest of lime – ordinary no more! The tangerine-skinned citrus over flowed the dish and spilled sticky-sweet nectar, daring us all to find room upon our already-laden plates for just one taste more.
We carried the feast-filled receptacles to a table laid with numerous glinting candles. We prayed; we lifted weary arms and forked down the first mouthfuls. It had been a long and busy day with much labor in it. Some studied, some cleaned closets; some laundered, some thought deeply for an answer not to be found just yet. We all came to the table hungry for food, for rest, for the touch that says, “You are among family, and we are glad.”
Slowly, laughter began to tinkle; words grew more rapid with lightness. The heaviness of the day passed with each sip and bite. Compliments flew my way and I smiled. The cave of wonders had not failed me.
As the candles burned low and the remaining morsels vanished, I signaled for the surprise ending to this exotic meal: Strawberry-rosewater-almond ice cream that graced tiny dishes, far too rich for major scooping. Inspired on my last trip to Disney’s Epcot, where Elizabeth and I enjoyed a lavish treat of perfumed ice creams in Morocco, I fired up my ice cream maker and let my imagination run wild. It ran and played in a most delicious fashion. Success never tasted so sweet.
All too soon the candles sputtered and the diners departed to close down their day. I watched them go in satisfied fullness, knowing that soon they will again be weary and hungry, and I will once again dig deep into that cave of wonders I lovingly stock with odd bits of taste and spice alongside the staples known throughout the world since that very first meal in Eden. We will pass this way again, but never in the exact same step. The gift we shared tonight will never happen again in just this way. I wash the last dish, pondering this meal, storing its recipe in my heart: Welcome the weary ones with fragrance and sweetness that draws them in from across the vast desert of the daily walk. Feed them and entreat them to rest. Dine Caravanserai style in this oasis of life – soothe each hunger pang in our home, sweet, home. Repeat as often as needed, or once a day (whichever comes first).