Many years ago, a dear friend invited me to her home in Queens. Unknown to me, she had prepared a feast for lunch. I watched as she threw together hummus. “Don’t you do this,” she instructed, as she casually blended garbanzo beans, water, lemon juice, and tahini in a blender without the lid. As she made cacik, a Turkish yogurt and cucumber dish, her husband noted the importance of using fresh lemon juice. Moments later, I watched her toss a palm full of dill into the yogurt with curiosity. (It’s a necessity, giving the dish a tangy bite.) She showed me how to make cheese and meat filled borek or kalem böreği (I don’t know which). As I sat at her kitchen table with her family, the number of plates and bowls filled with bites too numerous to count, I wondered why her family would ever want to eat out.
Of course, that meal was more than a meal. It was about hospitality. It was about family. It was about about teaching me to prepare food. It was about love. It was more than five years ago. Homemade cacik, hummus, and baba ganoush have been go to healthy comfort foods ever since. Tonight, I tried my hand at borek or kalem böreği. Our table featured only a fraction of the dishes I was treated to years ago–and my spread certainly wasn’t as pretty. But tonight’s meal reminded me of the joy of cooking for loved ones and the honor of being cooked for.