“The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.”
The year’s end arrives with unseasonably warm weather resulting in a respite of outdoor activity under a canopy of blue. Did Christmas really pass last week? The rush leading up to the holiday literally ended Christmas Eve, and I stood in church with a lit candle singing “Silent Night” trying to remember silence. My family gathered, we celebrated sans one brother and one sister, and by Boxing Day, all I wanted was my own heavenly peace to sleep in. I love the end of the year and the way it makes me want to reflect and daydream. I become a child awake to the wonder of possibility, infinite. It seems we are wired to ponder life on a grandiose scale when the first day of a new year stares us down.
I’ve never been the type to make resolutions, but tonight I sat around a dinner table with Collin, his sister and her beau, and I hoped for some things for 2012. We ate at a little place in Arlington that we love, Potager Cafe, an outside-the-box, hole-in-the-wall with real food and genuine community. You can eat as much as you like from the menu comprised of local fare. It changes based on what is available. You pay what you want to pay for your meal. Tonight a diner at another table offered Collin a glass of wine from the bottle on his table when Collin asked if it was good. Cynthia owns the place, and she hugged me when I left, wishing us a happy new year and promising to email me about an idea we’ve discussed the last few times I’ve eaten there. These things happen at Potager. We love it.
After dinner, we ran errands before Collin headed home so he could get to bed early, as a long ride owns the entirety of his Saturday morning. I kept thinking about Potager. The food is always good there (outstanding, really), but I’m not sure that’s all that keeps me going back. When I eat at Potager, I find myself invited to dinner at a place where conversation flows easy, and no one is a stranger. I don’t know how to explain the dynamic, but the uniqueness strikes me. And I hope to be the kind of person in 2012 who forgets the boxes that social norms create and who remembers that people matter and so does the way we interact with the world.
I think that’s the appeal of Potager. The business model isn’t the type to attract investors: no set prices and an environment that beckons patrons to want to stay long after they’ve finished eating. But I don’t think Cynthia measures the success of her business in profits (though I think she’s paying her bills). I suspect she understands something about the nature of community and the importance of stewarding the earth. She’s created a unique space in the middle of Arlington that resembles a hodge podge family dining room. When you’re at Potager, you’re in the midst of a better story than the typical American eatery.
Real food grown in a garden out back or procured from local farmers prepared simply with real ingredients? Do people eat like that any more? And while eating like that we slow down and learn the names of the people around us and rub shoulders with their stories, if only for a few minutes. We leave full and refreshed- every single time we eat there. Did I mention we love it?
“It feels like church,” I told Collin when we left tonight. He countered that it is better than church, because you don’t have to keep up an appearance to experience a good meal at Potager. Though that’s a post for another day, I say that to say this: in 2012, I hope to be the kind of person who imagines and creates unique spaces that allow genuine community to exist and thrive. I hope to take the kind of photographs that invoke emotion and start conversation. I hope to write the kind of words that provoke the telling of a better story. I hope to live in such a way that heavenly peace is never far off, because the reality of the presence of God holds my attention day in and day out, leaving me full and refreshed and able to fill and refresh others.
I am a child awake to possibility, infinite. Yes.