We had friends over for dinner last weekend, and our meal included cheesecake for dessert. It was from a recipe I’ve had for a long time, although I’ve never actually made it before. It was labor-intensive and time-consuming, with a lot of prep work required and some tricky steps along the way. There was one point at which things didn’t look the way they were supposed to, and I started worrying that instead of cheesecake, we’d be eating cheesecake soup for dessert. But it turned out fine, and was delicious.

The meal also included a side dish that’s a family favorite. I make it fairly often, and don’t need to look at the recipe anymore. It has only four ingredients, and it’s something that’s put together at the last minute. I was in the middle of preparing it – half an hour before dinner – when I realized I didn’t have one of the ingredients I needed. It was something I always have on hand – like salt and pepper, or sugar and flour – but somehow I had run out of it. It was more of a topping than a main ingredient, so I didn’t have to scrap the entire dish or make a last-minute run to the grocery store. But the dish wasn’t quite as good without it, and I was kicking myself for my slip-up.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere.

Actually, there are several, and they have nothing to do with food. One is about paying attention to things we often take for granted, and not neglecting the minor details. Another is that the ordinary, everyday aspects of our lives are every bit as important – if not more so – than the big, special-occasion ones.

The main lesson, though, is about not losing sight of the big picture, or of what’s most important in our lives. Our dinner last weekend wasn’t really about the food. It was about spending time with people we care about and enjoy being with. It didn’t matter to them that the side dish I served wasn’t exactly right, or that we almost ended up with a soggy cheesecake for dessert – which would have given us something to laugh about at future get-togethers – or with no dessert at all. And if we had just ordered a pizza, or had only snacks and drinks, I know we still would have enjoyed ourselves.

What struck me the most last weekend was how much I enjoy taking the time and making the effort to put together something special for special people. And that the people who are most special to me are the ones who don’t expect or care about things being perfect – or perfectly prepared. Our best friends are the ones with whom we can share our “oops” stories and experiences. They help us laugh at our mistakes instead of stressing out over them. They enjoy and appreciate what we do, and they keep us from being too hard on ourselves when we do mess up.

They also help us remember that humble pie isn’t nearly as tasty as cheesecake.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on April 23, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

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