Late winter in New York City is a particularly unromantic time of year. Everyone's gone without a vacation for too long. Everyone's been cold for too long. We start to come undone around the edges. We start to get mean. And you can bet that this toxic energy follows us onto the F train and into our tiny apartments, where we promptly share it with our poor partners.
To get out of this winter rut, there are the obvious solutions: Get out of town together, go out for a nice dinner, visit a museum or see a film or go to a goddamn botanical garden.
But what about when you're both working round the clock, not to mention, on a strict wedding savings budget?
My fiancé called me a few weeks ago sounding all kinds of down in the dumps: He had to work late, he was worried about his company's recent acquisition, his back was killing him. Rather than let winter get the best of us again (translation, order takeout and turn to Netflix), I had a revelation: I was going to do that thing that New Yorkers rarely do. I was going to cook. And I was going to make it fancy, dammit.
And so, I set about preparing a gourmand meal of disgusting healthy lentil "pasta" and "homemade" sauce comprised of bottled marinara, rosemary, fresh garlic and leftover kalamata olives from an errant happy hour I hosted for my girlfriends. Parmesan and hot pepper flake garnishes were then decanted to cute little pinch bowls and placed on the dining table.
As for that dining table, I dressed it in a summery floral tablecloth I received for my birthday, and laid out linen napkins and my best silver cutlery. I cracked open a bottle of wine and set out heirloom goblets for water. I unwrapped fresh taper candles, which I was saving for "a special occasion" and repurposed my Trader Joe's orchid (which has miraculously managed to stay alive) as an impromptu centerpiece.
When my fiancé walked through the door and saw the beautiful table with my pathetic-but-hey-I-tried dinner set out, I thought he might start crying with gratitude and comfort. We sat and talked for hours, until the candle wax turned to drippy stalagmites all over my expensive tablecloth. We left the dishes in the sink until morning.
Is there a point to this random private moment I'm sharing with you? Well, yes. I hope it serves as a reminder that you can break out of a rut with the simple act of breaking out your best tableware and foraging in your refrigerator for a home-cooked meal. And sometimes, it really is the thought that counts.