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When my wife and I were first dating, she asked me, “What are you passionate about?” Since I didn’t know Jesus at the time, and I was smart enough not to say football, I answered as all men should if we are truthful about it.
“Food,” I said.
If she had asked me to be more specific I would have listed my favorite foods: Subway BMTs, Carne Asada burritos, and Mongolian beef. I love Mongolian Beef but its cost rendered it a rare treat. Even the crappy grocery store Mongolian Beef sitting next to the Jo Jos and corn dogs under the heat lamps is a bit pricey. It’s not that we were never able to afford it, rather it was not always worth it.
We don’t eat out much in our house. This was always the case even before we had eight kids. My wife has just never enjoyed expensive meals that much. She enjoys quality, and eating out is often a crap shoot in this regard. Sometimes the recommendations and hype are warranted, and the restaurant experience is well worth the money; Mongolian Beef is rarely regretted. But more often than not, I’ve found myself walking out with a receipt in my pocket wondering how much the raw ingredients would have cost, and how big the portion I could make on my own stove top would be. For a fraction of the price, couldn’t I have eaten my fill and had two or three meals worth of leftovers?
I can make that, I’d tell myself. It’s a very man-thing to say.
There are exceptions to this logic. Both of my attempts at Spring Rolls have been failures, the culinary art of making perfect donuts escapes me, my chicken-fried steak doesn’t hold a candle to your average truck stop diner. Yet trial and error in our kitchen have paid dividends in the form of all-we-can-eat sushi, fresh bread on the counter almost every day (Lord bless teenagers who are more interested in yeast and fermentation than video games), and Chinese food, more specifically, Mongolian Beef.
These days I make my own Mongolian Beef, a full wok of it. It’s delicious, and glorious, but it’s still fleeting because flank steak is expensive and eight kids make short work of it, full wok or not. Still, it makes my man heart sing.
Mongolian beef doesn’t hold the same sway over my wife, but peonies do.
For the men reading this: a peony is a flower. I didn’t know that a year ago, because flowers are less important to me than, say, the NFL draft, or who is directing the next Terminator movie. (James Cameron is back, yay!) But my wife delights in her peonies. And if my Facebook feed in late June is any indication, so do most women.
She was excited to see them grow, warned me of the dire consequences to life and limb for careless weed whacker use in their vicinity, and tended them against strong winds and toddlers all spring. I admit that first I became interested in the appeal, then excited to see them bloom. And bloom they did.
Peonies are huge and beautiful. For days they outclassed everything around them in our yard, but not for long. Because Peonies, I discovered, are fleeting.
Within days it seemed their petals were drooping, then dying and falling off. All that remained was the brown stump indicating its legacy, and its promise to return again next year.
I love Mongolian Beef, while it lasts. My wife loves peonies, while they last. It’s a complex love relationship, all the more for its temporal nature. Men love things that provide sustenance, women love things that are beautiful, but we love them for the same reason: they feed us.
It strikes me that all things of value are like this. Relationships, dynasties, a house full of laughing children…eventually all things disappear. But while it lasts they feed a part of us, and we get to live in that moment and savor it. Because as the saying goes, a thing is not great because it lasts.Published in