A love note for Valentine's Day: On cooking dinner for beloved guests

On cooking dinner for beloved guests


A love poem meal, how to assemble, what to cook? How to tell them they are loved without spending the whole evening choppingcookingstirringwashing when really the greatest gift I can give them is time and company, good ears to hear them? The meal is the subtext, the paper on which the love letter is written, but the quality of the paper, its scent tells so much about intent. It must be good paper. Good food nourishes more than just the body. But I don’t want to be my grandmother, worry so much about the meal I forget the evening, so what can be planned ahead oh god I need to wash and clean and ready the house before hand, make sure the knives are sharp, how on earth do I have time to do all this? I hate it when the knives are too dull and I saw at the tomatoes until they burst, bloody seeds on the cutting board. Maybe lamb. Roasted lamb, garlicrosemary, easy, just rub it down beforehand and stick it in the oven, done and voila! Dinner. With more elegance than effort.


For youth, the lamb.
For age, the garlic.
For memory, the rosemary.
For grief, the salt.

For life, the greens.
For love, the tomatoes.
For hope, the scallions.
For humor, the cucumber.

For earth, the bread.
For air, the dying breath of the yeast.
For fire, the steam escaping.
For water, the crisp crust.

For worry, the stained napkins.
For posterity, the family silver.
For relief, the wine.
For the moment, the rainbows in the glass.


  1. Worry more than you must, fret less than you could.
  2. The bread will take care of itself through the cool night, rising and considering itself, waiting to be shaped and introduced to the oven. 
  3. Give gratitude to the lamb. Admire its sinews and muscles, place your hands on its flesh and feel the memory of grass underfoot. It would not be inappropriate to cry in wonder and sorrow.
  4. Vow to eat less meat or at least to taste each bite knowing its worth.
  5. Admire the glittering salt in your palm.
  6. The crunch of salt and rosemary in the mortar and pestle. Taste it, remembering the taste of the sea from your childhood. Work in the garlic so memory and time and eternity merge to one. Massage into the lamb with the care the beast will never know again and accept its gift.
  7. Remove the bread from the oven, and resist the urge to break it now so you can breath in wheat and sunlight and water.
  8. Roast the lamb at 350 until done. Whatever done may mean to you.
  9. In the last quiet before the meal feel your rising anxiety as your love assembles the salad, as you place the table settings, as you let the wine breath itself out, as you wonder if the butter is soft enough or the dressing too tart. Then remember, you are loved. You are loved. You are loved.
  10. Let your beloved guests be grateful. This is your real gift to them.
  11. Sit. Eat. Feast on your life.

And after?

Lean back against your heart, whether their arms or the memory of them. Feel the gifts of the meal in your belly and your spirit. The dishes can wait. Breathe. Tonight, this moment, is for you to know you love and are loved. In this moment let that be enough.

(c) Laura S. Packer
Please do not steal.


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