Yesterday I entered my 62nd year on the planet. The thing about turning 61 is that I thought I would feel different at this point in my life. I imagine — 40 years ago — as I looked at the prospect of hanging around for six decades, I probably thought I felt like an adult now. That’s not the case. Internally and emotionally, I still feel like a 22-year-old. Sure, I move a little slower and have a little less energy than I did four decades ago, but to be honest there was a time back then when I didn’t even think about reaching 30.
Scroll down for my version of my mom’s stuffed peppers recipe
I spent my birthday doing exactly what I wanted to do. I slept late (6:30am) and spent a little time listening to music in my bed before taking a shower. I ate breakfast, enjoyed a birthday pancake, brought some food to the front door of a friend who has COVID and worked on brunch at the new restaurant. Someone asked why I work on my birthday. I told them, “I’m not working, I’m having fun.”
The restaurants are never work for me. My mom keeps asking me, “When are you going to retire?”
I tell her, “Why should I retire? i do what i love That’s my fun.” I don’t hunt. i don’t fish I don’t play golf. I am a simple man. I love my family, friends, restaurants, movies, music and soccer.
My wife wanted to know what I would like for my birthday. I said, “As always, I’d like to have dinner with a small group of our friends and our daughter (my son is in cooking school).” So that’s what I did – spent the evening surrounded by family and friends at the lake house.
One of the first things I do most days is check my Facebook memories and look at what I’ve been up to on that exact day for each of the last 11 years. In 2009 I was at my mother’s place for a birthday dinner.
A question I often ask people after we’ve just met — and are talking about food and cooking — is, “If it’s your birthday and your parents or spouse ask you what to cook for the occasion, what is the dish you ask?” I sometimes ask, “What did your mom make you for your birthday when you were a kid?” That’s always a revealing answer, because most people ask what their favorite food their mom, spouse, or significant other made for them prepared/prepared. Mine was stuffed peppers. Nothing special, but something that was in my mother’s dinner repertoire and was my favorite meal aside from her gumbo.
I ate stuffed peppers on 90 percent of my birthdays for the first half century of my life. Stuffed peppers, mashed potatoes and English peas. This photo memory on my Facebook feed took me back to my childhood and even adulthood and meals in my mother’s dining room.
When I share a meal with family or friends, I connect. There is something magical and mystical about sharing a meal. It’s very biblical – loaves and fishes, last suppers and the like – and that’s how many of the most unforgettable memories are made. I’m aware of that now, and when I give speeches, I often ask the audience to recall their fondest memories, and most of the time eating, sharing a meal, was linked to those memories in some way.
That lunch 13 years ago was the last time my mom made stuffed peppers for my birthday. She moved to an independent living facility the next year and an assisted living facility two years ago. She hasn’t cooked anything for a long time. But I have the memories, and they’re some of my best memories.
Never underestimate the impact you have when you spend time with family and friends. I’m a 61-year-old man sitting at a laptop and still writing about meals I ate 50 years ago. You are important.
So as I come off the 32nd anniversary of my 29th birthday, I’m acutely aware that the older I get, the more I appreciate the importance of family and friends. I love everyone in this number.
My grandfather used to say, “You can’t judge a man’s wealth by the size of his wallet, but by the depth and breadth of his friendships.” He also used to say, “A rich man has his first dollar, but a really rich man does has his first boyfriend.”
I am incredibly blessed and feel so “wealthy” not because I have a lot of money in the bank (I don’t have), but because I have such amazing friends and a wonderful family. I love, respect and appreciate them all.
Today I am grateful to all the people who changed me. There are tons of them, and most of them probably don’t even know how they’ve impacted my life. I cherish all of these friendships and hope all of my friends and family know how much I love and appreciate them because they are such an integral part of my life.
Again there was a dark period in my late teens and early 20s when I didn’t expect to make it to 30. I more than doubled that. I live in bonus. I am a blessed man, not because of material things or circumstances, but because I have a great family and a wonderful circle of friends.
My version of my mom’s stuffed peppers
1 cup yellow onion, small cubes
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 tsp fresh garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained very well
6 Peppers, tops and seeds removed
• Preheat oven to 375 degrees
• In a small skillet, heat the bacon fat over medium-high heat. Add onions, steak seasoning, salt, sugar and pepper and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, basil, oregano, and thyme and cook another minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes.
• Remove mixture from heat and place in large mixing bowl. Leave to cool completely.
• When cool, mix in the egg, minced meat and drained tomatoes. Don’t overmix. Stuff each pepper with the ground beef mixture.
• Place the peppers in a casserole dish and bake for 20-25 minutes (cooking times will vary depending on the size of the peppers). Baste twice with the pan juices from the bottom of the pan during the cooking process. Check the center for doneness. take out and serve