My guitar buddy was making me dinner last Sunday - her reaction to an argument we had where I thought she had zero cooking ability and she was determined to prove me wrong - and some time during the making of the meal (potato gratin w/ chicken schnitzel and some steamed broccoli #NomNomNom (oh dear... I just hashtagged my own blog post)) she came to the following conclusion: that I'm very easy to please.
I was just off to one side, watching her cooking and thought: Man, this is awesome. I need to provoke more people into cooking for me. Smiling happily as I watched dinner being made before me with minimal effort on my part, I got to explaining that free food - dinners, lunches, paying for a dinner/lunch - was something of very high value in my family.
Going out to dinner is often the thing my family would do come any special occasion, usually for birthdays or commercial holidays like Father's/Mother's Day. We'd pick some restaurant that we hadn't been to before or, as in the case of my birthday, that we'd been to every year since my 21st, and have an enjoyable night poking fun at the others' most recent fails (which is on-par for Rabina-family dinner conversation. It's like those celebrity roasts where they take turns digging into someome).
Then when it comes to lunches during the working week, my parents and I would meet for lunch every-now-and-then and take turns paying. You could tell whose turn it was to pay because one of us would be wearing a dour expression, while the other 2 would be grinning from ear-to-ear.
When I was the one organizing lunch with one parent and I'm ringing the other to ask if they want to join, the question is always the same: "Are you paying? :D" (and yes, I can hear the :D over the phone line)
And my brother's no different either: in a text last week for when he was asking to come over to my place to watch the New Zealand vs Japan rugby game, he wrote a follow-up text which read: "And dinner too? lol"
The Food Channel might be the only thing my mum and dad can agree on when channel surfing on those random weekends I decide to visit them in the suburbs, and I may have confessed to watching My Kitchen Rules on more than one occasion, but as much as we enjoy watching the wonderful and extravagant things those shows present to us, not one of us spends an exorbitant amount of time or effort on creating our meals. It's like we put as little effort as possible into creating a meal so that it meets the minimum for whatever health guidelines we're following at the time, and where the consumption of it wouldn't knock too many years off the end of our lives.
I used to think we were just lazy and other families had epic dinners all the time. Turns out that when you have to make your own dinner every day, you try not to put too much effort into it - something I quickly learned when I moved out of home.
Maybe that's what makes those meals - the free ones or the ones where someone else is cooking - so damn special? Maybe it's not the food at all, but the idea that you don't have to do any cooking, or spend any of your own money, and yet food just magically appears. If that's the case, then anybody can appreciate the value in getting a meal for free; my family just happens to take it to the next level.
So there I was, watching my guitar buddy cook dinner for me and thinking that this might be the best day I've had in recent history. Then I thought about it some more and remembered back to last Tuesday when I had lunch with my friend the hug nazi and she paid for both of our meals with the aid of one of her vouchers - now my budget spreadsheet is in love with her.
It might not be the food at all, but rather the idea that someone else is taking a little tedium out of your own life by using a little time and effort from their own. It may not be the most spectacular thing in the world, but framed like that, it makes for a pretty powerful gift I reckon.
So whether it really be that the way to my heart is through my stomach, or that I'm just easy to please; if you're buying or making me my next meal and I start to beam like I've just won the Lotto, know that I'm just really appreciative of the gift you're giving me, even if you haven't realized it yet.