How To Make A Vinaigrette

I’ve learned how to do many things in my life, but there are a few things that have slipped right by me. Last night, my 24-year-old daughter taught me how to make a homemade vinaigrette dressing out of a few simple ingredients.

It was fresh and real, no additives or preservatives – tossed together with ingredients from the cupboard – and it was delicious. The small salad I ate tasted better, in part because I knew it was real, and fresh, and authentic.

Last week, it would have been a mystery to me. I’m sure I could have googled a recipe and figured it out myself, but you don’t know what you don’t know, and what I didn’t know was that making a vinaigrette is incredibly simple.

I watched her splash in the balsamic vinegar, the honey; a pinch of salt and olive oil. She shook pepper into the bowl and said, “Mom, you can dice some garlic”.

I did, and she whisked it all together, gave it a taste and winced.

“It needs a little more…something…”

I tasted it, too, and I couldn’t think of what it lacked. It was perfect.

/ / /

She’s getting married, this daughter of mine, in three short weeks. I woke up this morning after a restless night, filled with the twists and turns of a pronounced wrestling match with a long list of things to do, and I thought about that vinaigrette; how she knew just how to mix and match the ingredients at hand to create something almost magical. It was easy for her, natural, like breathing; she reached for the things she knew would work, carefully – if casually – combined them, and then served it with confidence.

I looked hard for the metaphor – because there is one, you know. She mixes oils and spices together as comfortably as I place my keys on the piano and find harmony. She moves with ease in the kitchen, and she creates exquisite things that become offerings to those of us graced to be in her orbit.

It’s what she does, connected deeply to who she is, these generous gifts of what, to us, might simply be food – but what, to her, is how she speaks love and truth. In this season of her life, it is the deepest, best of what she has to offer.

But it is not all she has to offer.

She’ll marry soon, and supposing there is a metaphor for that as well, I shied away from the oil-and-vinegar-don’t-mix that comes naturally – because in a marital union, of course we don’t want to look at that; the way the vinegar fights the oil, the way they exist together in the whisk of the swirl and tempest, but soon settle into their separate selves at rest.

But then again…

Marriage – even life itself – is quite like that. When necessary, we mix together; we cling to one another. And as we rest, our separate selves are seen. In the midst of it all, we soak in spices and flavors and we become seasoning, and we offer what we can to a world that looks to us; our kids, our friends, our spaces and places.

My daughter has a great, gentle gift; one that allows her to bring something to the world that makes it better. Her marriage will bring out the best in her, and in her husband. In these last few days that she is mine, and only mine, I will watch carefully. I expect there might be a few more things I can learn.

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