You know the question famous chefs get asked? What's the best meal of your life?
Here's one at the top of my list.
First, a slight detour.
My grandmother Theo was tight with money. In a pathological sense.
She once gave my stepsister and me a jewellery set for Christmas — bought at Zellers. I got the earrings, and my stepsister got the necklace.
Another year, I got my great-grandmother's old woollen blanket. Theo wrapped it. Put a fucking bow on it.
She came to a family occasion with a box of chocolates — some missing from the bottom layer.
The stories are amusing to tell. We can laugh now.
But as a kid, it felt confusing. Is this love?
Anyway, back to the meal.
I'm 17 years old.
Theo is travelling. In some distant land. The bookkeeper is out of office.
It's just my grandfather Harry at home in Welland. He invites us for lunch, baiting us with the promise of a prime rib roast. Truth is, we all like being with him. What's on the table is a bonus.
It makes me smile thinking about him standing at the counter. His small paunch pressed against the cool glass case. A glint in his eye as he places the order. Shooting the breeze with the butcher. No other cut of meat says, 'I'm flush.' Harry knew how to lay down cash.
We're five at lunch. Besides my grandfather, there are my uncles David and Peter, my dad, and me.
Here's what I remember.
The perfectly rare beef. David cooked it — the first chef in the family.
Each of us with a bone and a thick slice on our plate. A little room for horseradish. Which quickly turns pink.
The men talking and laughing.
The taste of blood. Greasy lips. The thought of Theo's disapproval.
Big. Fat. Happiness.
We left enough for Harry to make a sandwich the next day.
I tear up thinking about it. Only two of us left from that day.
The thing about best meals.
It's as much about who you were with as what you ate.
If your knees are under the same dinner table as your biological or chosen family today, enjoy.