I don’t know what the food for a goodbye should look like: should it be an old favourite or should it be a new, exotic, unusual dish? I’m pondering this as I sit here reminding myself that tomorrow evening I shall have my youngest son over for a last dinner cooked by his mom before he leaves to live and work in Cape Town.
It’s been coming a while now: first my oldest son and his wife left to go and teach in China for at least a year, now three months ago. I’m happy to report that they are loving it and have now almost settled in to the new rhythm of their lives. And very soon after, my youngest informed me that he may be leaving too, for Cape Town, to manage a restaurant/bar which his father was contemplating buying. In the mean time, the offer had been accepted, a flat found to rent, and on Tuesday at the latest, him and his father will take the long trip down, a trailer in tow stacked with all his earthly possessions: furniture, clothes, scooter. Tomorrow I will give him another box full of kitchen stuff: a set of cutlery, a pepper mill, parmesan grater, salad servers, a bowl or two. I had been meaning to give him a hand written recipe book, with some of the recipes which over the years he has loved when I have cooked them for him. It’s not ready yet: the day of goodbye has come too soon.
And with that, also the end of an era of cooking for sons. Or, I should say, regularly cooking for sons. For about 15 years, ever since my sons chose to go and live with their father, not many Wednesdays have gone by without them around my table in whichever home I was living in: there have been some. It’s rather ironic and a little sad that now, when I feel settled and steadily present in my life and my lovely little home which I share with a rather new husband (married two years now), that they are flying off into their own lives and now longer will be around to continue this tradition.
Of course it was inevitable: and it’s good and even necessary that this son too should leave. I love it that he is going to be running a brasserie: we’ve been taking about the menu and meal ideas, and when we go to Cape Town just after Xmas, I will see him there: in his element. He had been in the industry for a while now, first as a waiter and more recently as manager. This time it will be in the capacity of (co) owner/manager. He is excited. I am excited and sad both.
And now to decide on the last meal. It sounds rather sombre I guess, and whilst I know(and hope and trust) that this will not be the last meal I ever cook for him, I also am very soberly aware that it will be a long time until we spend this kind of time together: where he sits at the central island, and while I cook, plays me comedy clips on youtube, or music which he likes, or simply sit and share a bottle of wine with me, just in silence often.
Maybe I’ll cook a simple spaghetti bolognaise: I taught him to cook that. Or maybe I will do a luxurious leg of lamb. Or rack of lamb: maybe that. I remember one xmas about 6 years ago, when him and I were on our own, both out of relationships, and I cooked a beautiful french trimmed rack of lamb, with just cooked green beans and roast baby potatoes and set a festive table for just the two of us. After dinner we played a CD with nostalgic Xmas songs, and after that a favourite Nat King Cole compilation, and sat in a candlelit lounge until we were tired with wine and wistfulness.
I think that will be a fit meal for a farewell. Rack of lamb just done, maybe with a middle eastern touch this time: cumin rubbed; roast butternut with cardamom and honey, couscous with pomegranate arils and coriander and mint. A friend of his will be here too, and his stepbrother, and possibly his godfather: my youngest brother, and his wife and daughter. And me and my husband. I’m sure there will be some tears, which this son of mine will try to counter with some witty comment. He will probably feel that I’m making too much of a fuss. But this for me is an important ritual: saying goodbye, marking a moment which in years to one, may be remembered as an end and a beginning both, for me at least, and maybe, many more years from now, also for him.