The Flavor in Life

Photo by Olga Pavlovsky

Recently, we met some friends for dinner at a new restaurant on a recommendation. Usually up for any sort of food adventure, we were intrigued by the menu, to say the least. This place served quite a variety of foods—from an Asian tuna salad to baked ziti; from fish tacos to cassoulet. Get the picture? They offered all the things.

I decided on the grilled salmon, as my at-home fish cooking experiences have been mixed. Actually, they have been terrible disasters of overly salty tilapia and overcooked drum. Anyway, I was so excited about my salmon, a “house specialty,” since I don’t cook it at home —and bonus it came with creamed potatoes and wilted spinach, both solid sides. However, when our dishes came out and I took that first bite, all I could think was “Eh…” My meal wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good either. It was swimming in butter and overall lacked flavor, even the salmon (How does salmon lack flavor?). I had wanted so much to love it, but I didn’t. I only kind of liked it.

Here’s what I think the problem was: the restaurant was trying to be everything. They were trying to be an Italian restaurant, and a taco stand, and an Asian fusion place, and a down home Louisiana café, all in one. That just isn’t possible. That’s why my fish had no flavor. There was no way the chef or the line cooks or anyone could plate as many meals with as many flavors with excellence. Maybe they could do all the things with marginal success but not with excellence. 

The same is true in life, I think. When I put too many things on my plate, try to wear too many hats or badges or titles, I screw something(s) up. I get discouraged and feel like a failure. 

We might be able to do it all, but we surely can’t do all of it well. So, in the midst of a society that is encouraging us to “have it all,” to “lean in” everywhere, I’m being encouraged to stop. To try and quiet all the voices telling me to do everything. To listen to that still, small voice that tells me who I am and Whose I am. I’m learning about all the things I do. I wear the titles of wife, a mother, and a friend; I’m an accountant, a reader, and sometimes blogger. I like to cook, but I rarely bake. I like to shop for clothes, but don’t wear much makeup or do my hair. I’ve found freedom in discovering these intricacies of myself—what I do and what I don’t do. I’m finding that by spending my time and energy focusing on those people and activities that are most important to me, the things I have been created or gifted for or called to do, I am able to do those better and better. And all that other stuff, I don’t think I’ll really miss it. I want my life to be thoughtful and full of flavor, not bland and covered in fat. I want more of the good stuff, and less of the fluff.